Friday, September 25, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/25/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 9/25/2009President Obama has announced that non-military aid to Pakistan will rise to $1.5 billion per year — three times the previous level — over the next five years. When this is juxtaposed with the sudden outraged “discovery” by Obama, Gordon Brown, and Nicolas Sarkozy that the Iranians have a secret underground nuclear fuel plant, it makes me wonder whether portentous events are about to unfold in that part of the world.

In other news, a taped interview with the late Michael Jackson reveals that the singer considered Adolf Hitler to be a genius, based on his oratorical skills and his showmanship.

One other item to note: Safia Benaouda — the “Swedish” woman recently arrested in Pakistan along with her husband and a third culturally enriched Swede — has been released from custody. She and her child were turned over to the Swedish embassy by the Pakistani authorities.

Thanks to Amil Imani, C. Cantoni, CB, Diana West, ESW, Fausta, Henrik, Insubria, JD, Sean O’Brian, Steen, TB, Tuan Jim, TV, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Fed Audit Review Beginning in Congress
Federal Reserve Admits Hiding Gold Swap Arrangements, Gata Says
Japanese Exports Drop by 36 Per Cent
 
USA
Ahmadinejad Booted From Third New York Hotel
An Enfeebled Obama
Barack Obama, College Administrator
Charles Manson Follower Susan Atkins Dies at 61
FBI Payout for Egyptian Over 9/11
Get a Handgun, Save a Life
Health Reform is Just Subterfuge; Dream is Democratic Dictatorship
How a Power Giant Profits From Greenhouse Regs
Hunt Begins for Records on ACORN’s Fed Funds
Importer Tries to Get Around Clove Smoke Ban
Kirk to Obama: Withdraw Grants to Libyan Charities
Mohammed Cartoonist to Speak at Yale
Muslims Gather at the Capitol for Prayer Event
Newly Declassified Files Detail Massive FBI Data-Mining Project
Obama Makes Brown Feel Welcome at UN
Obama’s Policies Would Redistribute Nearly $1 Trillion in Wealth Every Year
Obama to Congress: Forget it!
Obama Won’t Win by Calling Opponents Cowards
Obama’s Malpractice on Medical Lawsuits
Right’s Czar Mania is a Distraction
Schoolhouse Shariah
Sen. Jim Inhofe: Obama’s “You’re on Your Own” Foreign Policy
States Reassert Sovereignty With Legislation
Video: Shocker: Kids Taught to Sing Obama’s Praises
White House Dismisses Fox News as ‘Ideological Outlet, ‘ Renewing Feud
 
Europe and the EU
Ahmadinejad Did Not Cross EU ‘Red Line’ With UN Speech, Says Sweden (EU Presidency)
Austria: Turkish Diplomat Accused of Drunk Driving
Austrian Right Holds on to Power in Regional Election
Climate: Franceschini, Premier’s Choices Against Obama’s
Denmark: Police Grab Illegal Arsenal
Ethnic Minorities Hope for Breakthrough in German Elections
Euro Project to Arrest Us for What They Think We Will Do
European Commission Accused of Breaching Rules With Ryanair Stunt
Finland: Hospitals Ponder Treatment Priorities
Greece: Terror Breakthrough for Police
Ireland: O’Leary and Ganley Lock Horns in Bitter TV Showdown
Italy: New Lottery Prize — 4,000 Euros for 20 Years
Italy: Indian Burns Victim on Road to Recovery
Italy: Filipinos Held Over 116 Billion Dollars of Bogus US Bonds
Netherlands: In Crime, Women Are ‘More Dangerous’ Than Men
Poland Can’t Issue More Polluting Permits Despite Court Win: EU
Polish Bloggers Urge No Vote
Sweden: Björklund Against Burka Ban
Swiss Parliament Votes for Stricter Integration
UK: Foreign Office Chief Faces Sack After ‘Anti-Semitic’ Rant Verdict
UK: General Quits ‘Over Afghanistan’
UK: MPs’ Expenses Leaked Over Failure to Equip Troops on Front Line in Afghanistan and Iraq
UK: Miliband Accused Over Iran Exiles
 
Balkans
Macedonia: Ethnic Albanian ‘Encylopedia’ Withdrawn
 
North Africa
Egypt Bloggers Sound Out on Hosni’s UNESCO Bid
Egypt Suspicious of European Language Students
 
Middle East
Al Ahram Compiles a List of Failed Arab States
Exclusive Interview: Gaddafi on Obama, Israel and Iran
Obama, Brown, Sarkozy to Iran: ‘J’Accuse!’
Saudi Arabia: Beacon Shed Light on Art
 
South Asia
Afghanistan: The Rules Murdering Our Troops
Christian Medical Centre Helping Muslims and Pakistan’s Poor
Diana West: Ready, Aim, Fire McChrystal
Indonesia: Surakarta: People Say No to Burial of Islamic Terrorist
Indonesia: Muslim Group Refuses Verdict
Indonesia’s Terror Burial Anger Boils Over
LTTE: The Jihadi Connection
Malaysia: Close Watch on Polygamy Club
Obama Announces Pakistan Aid
Pakistan: Taliban Blamed for Deaths of Seven Tribal Leaders
Pakistan Discovers ‘Village’ Of White German Al-Qaeda Insurgents
Pakistan: Moon Madness
Sri Lanka: PTGTE New LTTE Front
Swedish Woman Freed in Pakistan Terror Probe
 
Far East
9 N.Korean Refugees Flee Into Danish Embassy in Hanoi
China Selling Petrol to Iran, Report Says
N. Korea’s Concentration Camps Are a Burning Issue
S. Korea: On Deterring a Nuclear Attack
Why Are Seoul and Washington Out of Sync?
 
Australia — Pacific
Australia How-to Jihadist Jailed
 
Immigration
Cyprus: People Traffickers Arrested in Sting
Immigration: Frontex Report Implicates Turks
Iraqi Refugees Face a Hard Life in Asylum Countries
Italy: Illegal Nigerians Deported From Rome
Minister of Migration Says Finland Could Face Pressures to Accept More Refugees
Netherlands: Multicultural Forum to Cost Immigration
‘We Are All Immigrants’: Swedish Researchers
 
Culture Wars
10 Years Later: Media Bury Jesse Dirkhising
Remembering Jesse Dirkhising
Sunstein: Fetuses ‘Use’ Women, Abortion Limits ‘Troublesome’
 
General
Amil Imani: Islam is Misunderstood
Benign Shariah Finance
Europe and the USA Face Spread of ‘Severe’ Disease, Doctor Warns
Michael Jackson: ‘Hitler Was a Genius’
The Dog Ate Global Warming

Financial Crisis

Fed Audit Review Beginning in Congress

‘This is history in the making and victory is within reach’

Members of Congress will holding a hearing tomorrow on a plan by U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, to audit the Federal Reserve, which oversees U.S. monetary policy, and his supporters are calling it a precedent-setting event.

“This is history in the making and victory is within reach,” said a statement on the RonPaul.com website, which is maintained in support of the congressman but is not linked to him.

WND reported just days ago that the congressman, who has sponsored similar legislation on and off since the 1980s, believes this is the year there actually will be progress on his efforts to open up the books of the private organization that sets interest rates, controls the U.S. money supply and impacts consumers in a hundred ways.

The Federal Reserve, an independent organization apart from the U.S. government, largely has operated behind a veil of secrecy for decades, but Paul told WND its operations could be about to face the light of day.

[…]

When the plan was introduced, Paul said, “How long will we as a Congress stand idly by while hard-working Americans see their savings eaten away by inflation? Only big-spending politicians and politically favored bankers benefit from inflation.

“Since its inception, the Federal Reserve has always operated in the shadows, without sufficient scrutiny or oversight of its operations. While the conventional excuse is that this is intended to reduce the Fed’s susceptibility to political pressures, the reality is that the Fed acts as a foil for the government. Whenever you question the Fed about the strength of the dollar, they will refer you to the Treasury, and vice versa. The Federal Reserve has, on the one hand, many of the privileges of government agencies, while retaining benefits of private organizations, such as being insulated from Freedom of Information Act requests.”

Paul has warned, “The Federal Reserve can enter into agreements with foreign central banks and foreign governments, and the GAO is prohibited from auditing or even seeing these agreements. Why should a government-established agency, whose police force has federal law enforcement powers, and whose notes have legal tender status in this country, be allowed to enter into agreements with foreign powers and foreign banking institutions with no oversight? Particularly when hundreds of billions of dollars of currency swaps have been announced and implemented, the Fed’s negotiations with the European Central Bank, the Bank of International Settlements, and other institutions should face increased scrutiny, most especially because of their significant effect on foreign policy. If the State Department were able to do this, it would be characterized as a rogue agency and brought to heel, and if a private individual did this he might face prosecution under the Logan Act, yet the Fed avoids both fates.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Federal Reserve Admits Hiding Gold Swap Arrangements, Gata Says

The Federal Reserve System has disclosed to the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee Inc. that it has gold swap arrangements with foreign banks that it does not want the public to know about.

The disclosure, GATA says, contradicts denials provided by the Fed to GATA in 2001 and suggests that the Fed is indeed very much involved in the surreptitious international central bank manipulation of the gold price particularly and the currency markets generally.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Japanese Exports Drop by 36 Per Cent

World demands continue to stagnate. Exports towards the United States, China and Europe drop. The positive signs seen of the second quarter were due to the government stimulus package. Imports decline as well. For the fourth time, Japan Airlines asks the government for aid.

Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Japan’s exports fell for an 11th month in August making it harder for the economic recovery to gain traction.

Shipments abroad dropped 36 percent from a year earlier compared with a 36.5 percent decline in July, the Finance Ministry said today in Tokyo.

In a report, the ministry suggests the boost measured in the second quarter of this year may be moderating as governments exhaust stimulus spending.

Given low world demand, exports are recovering very slowly. Japan’s economy remains hard-pressed because the worldwide crisis has cut demand for cars and electronics.

Exports to the US are down 34.4 per cent from a year earlier, the least since November, the ministry said. Shipments to China, Japan’s biggest market, fell 27.6 per cent, and sales to Europe slid 45.9 per cent.

The yen’s 7 per cent gain over the past six months has added another obstacle for exporters.

In addition, this year imports fell 41.3 percent in August from a year earlier.

Even Japan’s main airline carrier, Japan Airlines (JAL), has had to weather turbulent time.

JAL has the heaviest debt among Asia’s carriers, and for the fourth time since 2001 has had to ask for government aid.

In June JAL posted a 99 billion yen loss (US$ 109.2 billion) in the first quarter, the most in at least six years, as business and leisure travel plummeted during the country’s worst postwar recession.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

USA

Ahmadinejad Booted From Third New York Hotel

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, had another door slammed in his face Thursday when a third New York venue refused to allow the Holocaust-denying leader a place to throw a reception while he was in town for the United Nations General Assembly.

On Thursday, the Essex House, a Manhattan hotel, cancelled a presumably alcohol- and pork-free dinner Ahmadinejad planned to host Friday, less than 24 hours after he went on a hate-filled rant at the U.N., which caused members of the U.S. delegation to walk out of the room.

Ahmadinejad and his fellow pariah, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi , have received welcomes as cold as desert nights since they landed in New York this week, each of them cancelling plans after locals demanded they pack up their things.

The hotel said “that no accommodation or banqueting facilities have been booked at the Essex House for the president of Iran or members of his delegation,” making it the third place in a week to bow to local pressure.

A nonprofit group called United Against Nuclear Iran says it has spearheaded the campaign to keep venues from hosting the president and successfully encouraged General Electric to divest its holdings in Iran.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


An Enfeebled Obama

If Zbigniew Brzezinski had his way, the US would go to war against Israel to defend Iran’s nuclear installations.

In an interview with the Daily Beast Web site last weekend, the man who served as former US president Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser said, “They [IAF fighter jets] have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? We have to be serious about denying them that right. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not.”

Brzezinski has long distinguished himself as one of the most outspoken Israel-haters in polite circles in Washington. Under normal circumstances, his remarks could be laughed off as the ravings of a garden variety anti-Semite. But these are not normal circumstances. Brzezinski served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, and his views are not terribly out of place among Obama’s senior advisers in the White House. In an interview in 2002, Samantha Powers, who serves as a senior member of Obama’s national security council, effectively called for the US to invade Israel in support of the Palestinians.

The fact of the matter is that Brzezinski’s view is in line with the general disposition of Obama’s foreign policy. Since entering office, Obama has struck a hard-line position against Israel while adopting a soft, even apologetic line toward Iran and its allies.

For eight months, Obama has sought to force Israel to the wall. He has loudly and repeatedly ordered the Netanyahu government to prevent all private and public construction for Jews in Israel’s capital city and its heartland in order to facilitate the eventual mass expulsion of Jews from both areas, which he believes ought to become part of a Jew-free Palestinian state.

Until this week, Obama conditioned the resumption of negotiations toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians on such a prohibition of Jewish building and so encouraged Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to further radicalize his positions toward Israel. Until Obama came around, Abbas had no problem negotiating with Israeli leaders while Jews were building homes and schools and other structures in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. But with Obama requiring a freeze of all such construction, Abbas made clear in an interview with The Washington Post in May that he couldn’t talk to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu without looking like a sellout.

Obama made no equivalent demands of the Palestinians. He did not precondition talks on freezing illegal Arab construction in Jerusalem, or on dismantling the Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorist group, or even simply on setting aside the Palestinian demand that Israel release convicted terrorists from its prisons. To the contrary, he has energetically supported the establishment of a Palestinian unity government between Fatah and Hamas — which the US State Department has since 1995 designated as a foreign terrorist organization to which US citizens, including the US president, are required by law to give no quarter.

As for Iran, during his meeting with Netanyahu in May, Obama gave the clear impression that the Iranian regime had until September to accept his offer to negotiate the disposition of its nuclear installations. But it is now September, and in its belated response to Obama’s generous offer of engagement, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime rejected the terms of Obama’s engagement out of hand. Obama did not retaliate by taking his offer to negotiate off the table or — perish the thought — working to implement the sanctions he had pledged would follow an Iranian rejection of his open hand.

Instead, Obama announced that he is sending a senior US official to meet with the Iranians on October 1. And with that announcement, any residual doubt that Obama is willing to live in a world in which Iran is armed with nuclear weaponry dissipated completely.

In the meantime, in his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday and in his remarks at his meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas on Tuesday, Obama made clear that, in the words of former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, he has “put Israel on the chopping block.” He referred to Israeli communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines as “illegitimate.”

Moreover, Obama explained that Israel can no longer expect US support for its security if it doesn’t bow to his demand that it surrender all of the land it has controlled since 1967.

Apparently it is immaterial to the US leader that if Israel fulfilled his demand, the Jewish state would render itself defenseless against enemy attack and so embolden its neighbors to invade. That is, it matters not to Obama that were Israel to fulfill his demand, the prospect of an Arab war against Israel would rise steeply. The fact that Obama made these deeply antagonistic statements about Israel at the UN in itself exposes his hostility toward the country. The UN’s institutional hostility toward Israel is surpassed only by that of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

So given Obama’s positions toward Israel on the one hand and Iran and its allies on the other, it seems clear enough that the logical endpoint of Obama’s policies would look something like Brzezinski’s recommended course of action. Moreover, Obama’s foreign policy as a whole makes it fairly easy to imagine him ordering the US military to open hostilities against a US ally to defend a US adversary — even as that adversary goes out of its way to humiliate Obama personally and the US in general.

Since Obama took office, he has been abandoning one US ally after another while seeking to curry favor with one US adversary after another. At every turn, America’s allies — from Israel to Honduras, to Columbia, South Korea and Japan, to Poland and the Czech Republic — have reacted with disbelief and horror to his treachery. And at every turn, America’s adversaries — from Iran to Venezuela to North Korea and Russia — have responded with derision and contempt to his seemingly obsessive attempts to appease them.

The horror Obama has instilled in America’s friends and the contempt he has evoked from its enemies have not caused him to change course. The fact that his policies throughout the world have already failed to bring a change in the so-called international community’s treatment of the US has not led him to reconsider those policies. As many Western Europeans have begun to openly acknowledge, the man they once likened to the messiah is nothing but a politician — and a weak, bungling one at that. Even Britain’s Economist is laughing at him.

But Obama is unmoved by any of this, and as his speech at the UN General Assembly made clear, he is moving full speed ahead in his plans to subordinate US foreign policy to the UN.

His stubborn insistence on advancing his feckless foreign policy in the face of its already apparent colossal failure is of a piece with his unswerving commitment to his domestic agenda in spite of its apparent colossal failure. Obama’s economic stimulus package failed to stimulate the US economy and increased the US’s economic deficit to heights undreamed of by his predecessors. His nationalization of major US corporations like General Motors, his cash-for-clunkers program to stimulate the US auto industry and his massive encroachments on the banking and financial industries have done nothing to increase economic growth in the US and indeed, unemployment has reached generational highs. And yet, rather than reconsider his belief in vastly expanding the size of the federal government’s control over the private sector, Obama has insistently pushed for further governmental control over the US economy — most notably in his drive to transform the US health care industry.

Both Obama’s supporters and his opponents have claimed that his presidency may well stand or fall on his ability to pass a health care reform law in the coming months. But the fact of the matter is that if he succeeds in passing such a law, his success will be a Pyrrhic victory because Obama has promised that his plan will do the impossible, and therefore it will unquestionably fail.

He has promised that the health care plan he supports will increase access to health services and improve their quality, but simultaneously will not increase the size of the federal deficit or be funded with tax hikes — and this is impossible. Obama’s health care plan will fail either to pass into law, or if it becomes law, it will fail to live up to his promises.

Obama’s failures in both foreign and domestic policy have weakened him politically. His response to this newfound weakness has been to put himself into the public eye seemingly around the clock. Apparently the thinking behind the move is that while Obama’s policies are unpopular, Obama’s personal popularity remains high, so if he personalizes his policies, it will become more difficult for his opponents to argue against them.

But alas, this policy too has failed. The more Obama exposes himself, the less he is able to leverage his personal celebrity into political power.

The question for the US’s spurned allies in general — and for Israel in particular — is whether we are better off with a politically strong Obama or a politically weak Obama. Given that the general thrust of his foreign policy is detrimental to our interests, America’s allies are best served by a weak Obama. Already this week Israel benefitted from his weakness. It was Obama’s weakness that dictated his need to stage a photo-op with Netanyahu and Abbas at the UN. And it was this need — to be seen as doing something productive — that outweighed Obama’s desire to put the screws on Israel by preconditioning talks with a freeze on Jewish construction. So Obama was forced to relent at least temporarily and Netanyahu won his first round against Obama.

During a television interview this week, Sen. John McCain was asked for his opinion of Brzezinski’s recommendation that the US shoot down IAF jets en route to Iran in a hypothetical Israeli air strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. He responded with derisive laughter. And indeed, the notion that the US would go to war against Israel to protect Iran’s nuclear installations is laughably absurd.

The weaker Obama becomes politically, the more readily Democrats and liberal reporters alike will acknowledge that attacking US allies while scraping and bowing before US foes is a ridiculous strategy for foreign affairs. Certainly no self-proclaimed realist can defend a policy based on denuding the US of its power and forsaking a US-based international system for one dictated by its foes.

It is true that a weakened Obama will seek to win cheap points by putting the squeeze on Israel. But it is also true that the weaker Obama becomes, the less capable he will be of carrying through on his bullying threats against Israel and against fellow democracies around the world.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Barack Obama, College Administrator

Is the commander-in-chief really president of the University of America?

If you are confused by the first nine months of the Obama administration, take solace that there is at least a pattern. The president, you see, thinks America is a university and that he is our campus president. Keep that in mind, and almost everything else makes sense.

Obama went to Occidental, Columbia, and Harvard without much of a break, taught at the University of Chicago, and then surrounded himself with academics, first in his stint at community organizing and then when he went into politics. It shows. In his limited experience, those who went to Yale or Harvard are special people, and the Ivy League environment has been replicated in the culture of the White House.

Note how baffled the administration is by sinking polls, tea parties, town halls, and, in general, “them” — the vast middle class, which, as we learned during the campaign, clings to guns and Bibles, and which has now been written off as blinkered, racist, and xenophobic. The earlier characterization of rural Pennsylvania has been expanded to include all of Middle America.

For many in the academic community who have not worked with their hands, run businesses, or ventured far off campus, Middle America is an exotic place inhabited by aborigines who bowl, don’t eat arugula, and need to be reminded to inflate their tires. They are an emotional lot, of some value on campus for their ability to “fix” broken things like pipes and windows, but otherwise wisely ignored. Professor Chu, Obama’s energy secretary, summed up the sense of academic disdain that permeates this administration with his recent sniffing about the childish polloi: “The American people . . . just like your teenage kids, aren’t acting in a way that they should act.” Earlier, remember, Dr. Chu had scoffed from his perch that California farms were environmentally unsound and would soon disappear altogether, “We’re looking at a scenario where there’s no more agriculture in California.”

It is the role of the university, from a proper distance, to help them, by making sophisticated, selfless decisions on healthcare and the environment that the unwashed cannot grasp are really in their own interest — deluded as they are by Wal-Mart consumerism, Elmer Gantry evangelicalism, and Sarah Palin momism. The tragic burden of an academic is to help the oppressed, but blind, majority.

In the world of the university, a Van Jones — fake name, fake accent, fake underclass pedigree, fake almost everything — is a dime a dozen. Ward Churchill fabricated everything from his degree to his ancestry, and was given tenure, high pay, and awards for his beads, buckskin, and Native American—like locks. The “authentic” outbursts of Van Jones about white polluters and white mass-murderers are standard campus fare. In universities, such over-the-top rhetoric and pseudo-Marxist histrionics are simply career moves, used to scare timid academics and win release time, faculty-adjudicated grants, or exemption from normal tenure scrutiny. Skip Gates’s fussy little theatrical fit at a Middle American was not his first and will not be his last.

Obama did not vet Jones before hiring him because he saw nothing unusual (much less offensive) about him, in the way that Bill Ayers likewise was typical, not an aberration, on a campus. Just as there are few conservatives, so too there are felt to be few who should be considered radicals in universities. Instead everyone is considered properly left, and even fringe expressions are considered normal calibrations within a shared spectrum. The proper question is not “Why are there so many extremists in the administration?” but rather “What’s so extreme?”

Some people are surprised that the administration is hardly transparent and, in fact, downright intolerant of dissent. Critics are slurred as racists and Nazis — usually without the fingerprints of those who orchestrated the smear campaign from higher up. The NEA seems to want to dish out federal money to “artists” on the basis of liberal obsequiousness. The president tells the nation that his wonderful programs are met with distortion and right-wing lies, and that the time for talking is over — no more partisan, divisive bickering in endless debate.

That reluctance to engage in truly diverse argumentation again reveals the influence of the academic world on Team Obama. We can have an Eric Holder—type “conversation” (a good campusese word), but only if held on the basis of the attorney general’s one-way notion of racial redress.

On most campuses, referenda in the academic senate (“votes of conscience”) on gay marriage or the war in Iraq are as lopsided as Saddam’s old plebiscites. Speech codes curb free expression. Groupthink is the norm. Dissent on tenure decisions, questioning of diversity, or skepticism about the devolution in the definition of sexual harassment — all that can be met with defamation. The wolf cry of “racist” is a standard careerist gambit. Given the exalted liberal ends, why quibble over the means?

Some wonder where Obama got the idea that constant exposure results in persuasion. But that too comes from the talk-is-everything mindset of a university president. Faculties are swamped with memos from deans, provosts, and presidents, reiterating their own “commitment to diversity,” reminding how they would not “tolerate hate speech,” and in general blathering about the “campus community.” University administrators instruct faculty on everything from getting a flu shot, to covering up when coughing, to how to make a syllabus and avoid incorrect words.

Usually the frequency of such communique’s spikes when administrators are looking for a job elsewhere and want to establish a fresh paper trail so that their potential new employers can be reminded of their ongoing progressive credentials.

Obama has simply emulated the worldview and style of a college administrator. So he thinks that reframing the same old empty banalities with new rhetorical flourishes and signs of fresh commitment and empathy will automatically result in new faculty converts. There is no there there in healthcare reform, but opponents can be either bullied, shamed, or mesmerized into thinking there is.

Czars are a university favorite. Among the frequent topics of the daily university executive communique’s are the formulaic “My team now includes . . . ,” “I have just appointed . . . ,” “Under my direction . . . “ (that first-person overload is, of course, another Obama characteristic), followed by announcement of a new “special” appointment: “special assistant to the president for diversity,” “acting assistant provost for community affairs and external relations,” “associate dean for curriculum enhancement and development.”

Most of these tasks are either unnecessary or amply covered by existing faculty, department chairs, and deans. Czars, however, proliferated on campuses for fairly obvious reasons. First, they are spotlights illuminating the university administration’s commitment to a particular fashionable cause by the showy creation of a high-profile, highly remunerative new job. When loud protests meet the university’s inability to create a new department or fund a trendy but costly special program, administrators often take their loudest critics and make them czars — satisfying the “base” without substantial policy changes.

Second, czars are a way to circumvent the usual workings of the university, especially faculty committees in which there is an outside chance of some marginalized conservative voting against putting “Race, Class, and Gender in the Latina Cinema” into the general-education curriculum.

Special assistants for and associates of something or other are not vetted. Czars create an alternative university administration that can create special billets, hire adjuncts (with de facto security), and obtain budgeting without faculty oversight. The special assistant or associate rarely is hired through a normal search process open to the campus community, but rather is simply selected and promoted by administrative fiat.

One of the most disturbing characteristics of the new administration is a particular sort of whining or petulance. Dissatisfaction arises over even favorable press coverage — as we saw last weekend, when Obama serially trashed the obsequious media that he had hogged all day.

Feelings of being underappreciated by the public for all one’s self-sacrificial efforts are common university traits. We’ve seen in the past a certain love/hate relationship of Professor Obama with wealthy people — at first a Tony Rezko, but now refined and evolved much higher to those on Wall Street that the administration in schizophrenic fashion both damns and worships.

Michelle Obama during the campaign summed up best her husband’s wounded-fawn sense of sacrifice when she said, “Barack is one of the smartest people you will ever encounter who will deign to enter this messy thing called politics.”

Academic culture also promotes this idea that highly educated professionals deigned to give up their best years for arduous academic work and chose to be above the messy rat race. Although supposedly far better educated, smarter (or rather the “smartest”), and more morally sound than lawyers, CEOs, and doctors, academics gripe that they, unfairly, are far worse paid. And they lack the status that should accrue to those who teach the nation’s youth, correct their papers, and labor over lesson plans. Obama reminded us ad nauseam of all the lucre he passed up on Wall Street in order to return to the noble pursuit of organizing and teaching in Chicago.

In short, campus people have had the bar raised on themselves at every avenue. Suggest to an academic that university pay is not bad for ninth months’ work, often consisting of an actual six to nine hours a week in class, and you will be considered guilty of heresy if not defamation.

University administrators worship private money, and then among themselves scoff at the capitalism that created it. Campus elites, looking at a benefactor, are fascinated how someone — no brighter than they are — made so much money, even as they are repelled by a system that allows those other than themselves to have pulled it off. No wonder that Obama seems enchanted by a Warren Buffett, even as he trashes the very landscape that created Berkshire Hathaway’s riches. No president has raised more money from Wall Street or has given it more protection from accountability — while at the same time demagoguing it as selfish and greedy.

Many of the former Professor Obama’s problems so far hinge on his administration’s inability to judge public opinion, its own self-righteous sense of self, its non-stop sermonizing, and its suspicion of sincere dissent. In other words, the United States is now a campus, we are the students, and Obama is our university president.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Charles Manson Follower Susan Atkins Dies at 61

Atkins was California’s longest-serving female prisoner at the time of her death. She was involved in one of modern history’s most shocking killing sprees, the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders in L.A.

Susan Atkins, who committed one of modern history’s most notorious crimes when she joined Charles Manson and his gang for a 1969 killing spree that terrorized Los Angeles and put her in prison for the rest of her life, has died. She was 61.

Atkins was diagnosed in 2008 with brain cancer, which caused paralysis and the loss of one leg. She was receiving medical treatment at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla and entered hospice care in recent days. She died there at 11:46 p.m. Thursday of natural causes, said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Convicted of eight murders, Atkins served more than 38 years of a life sentence at the California Institute for Women in Corona. She was the longest-serving prisoner among women currently held in the state’s penitentiaries, Thornton said. . That distinction now falls to Patricia Krenwinkel, who was convicted along with Atkins for the Tate-LaBianca murders.

Although prison staffers and clergy workers commended Atkins’ behavior during her many years behind bars, she was repeatedly denied parole, with officials citing the cruel and callous nature of her crimes. In June 2008, she appealed to prison and parole officials for compassionate release, but the state parole board denied the request. On Sept. 2, she was wheeled into her last parole hearing on a hospital gurney but was turned down by a unanimous vote of the 12-member California Board of Parole.

Atkins confessed to killing actress Sharon Tate, the pregnant wife of director Roman Polanski, who was stabbed 16 times and hanged; Tate’s nearly full-term fetus died with her. The next night, Atkins accompanied Manson and his followers when they broke into the Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca and killed them.

“She was the scariest of the Manson girls,” said Stephen Kay, who helped prosecute the case and argued against Atkins’ release at her parole hearings. “She was very violent.”

Former chief prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who sought and won death sentences for Atkins, Manson and other followers, said Atkins would be remembered “obviously as a member of a group that committed among the most horrendous crimes in American history. She apparently made every effort to rehabilitate herself.”

He added: “It has to be said that she did pay substantially, though not completely, for her incredibly brutal crimes. And to her credit, she did renounce — and, I believe, sincerely — Charles Manson.”

It was Atkins who broke open the case when she bragged of her participation in the slayings to cellmates at Sybil Brand Institute in East Los Angeles, where she was being held on other charges…

[Return to headlines]


FBI Payout for Egyptian Over 9/11

An Egyptian man has received a $250,000 payout from the FBI because of the way he was treated following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Abdallah Higazy, 38, sued the bureau, saying he had been unjustly criminally charged and imprisoned for 34 days.

He had been accused of lying to investigators about an aviation radio found in his hotel room in New York.

Mr Higazy said he told conflicting stories about the radio because he had been intimidated by an FBI agent.

He asserted that the agent shouted at him, lied to him and threatened to endanger his family.

A judge approved the settlement payment in July 2009.

Mr Higazy was studying at the Polytechnic University in Brooklyn on a US government-funded scholarship and staying at the Millennium Hilton Hotel near the Twin Towers.

He was detained in December 2001 when he returned to reclaim his belongings from the hotel which he had left when the hotel was evacuated during the attacks.

‘Traumatic memory’

Mr Higazy had acknowledged in court that he had served in the Egyptian Air Corps and had expertise in communications.

The aviation radio found at the hotel could be used to communicate with planes and monitor pilot conversations.

He was freed in January 2002 after another hotel guest, a pilot, told hotel officials the radio belonged to him.

Mr Higazy’s lawsuit against the FBI agent that questioned him was initially thrown out by a lower court judge but was reinstated in 2007 by the Court of Appeals in Manhattan.

When he was released he married an American and returned to Egypt, where he lives in Cairo and works at a school, according to his lawyer Jonathan Abady.

“He was entirely innocent and was coerced to the point where he confessed to participation in the crime of the century. Had the pilot not returned to retrieve the radio, he [Higazy] might still be in prison,” Mr Abady said.

He said that Mr Higazy was pleased to put the ordeal behind him but that the ordeal was a “traumatic memory that will never leave him completely”.

An admission of liability or fault was not part of the FBI agreement.

US government lawyers on the case have declined to comment.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Get a Handgun, Save a Life

With one swift slash from a samurai sword, John Pontolillo made a convincing case for … private ownership of handguns?

Oh, you betcha.

Pontolillo is an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University. Before Sept. 15, that’s all he was: One of the many JHU students who have to bust their humps studying so they can graduate from one of the most challenging and academically competitive campuses in the country.

But nine days ago, Pontolillo went from being a simple college guy to being in the center of the maelstrom that developed after he slashed a burglar in the backyard of a house he shared with fellow JHU students.

Pontolillo used a samurai sword to defend himself after the burglar lunged at him. With one swish he nearly severed the burglar’s left hand and pierced his chest. The man bled to death before paramedics could arrive.

The alleged burglar — and I’m using that word “alleged” guardedly here — was a career criminal with more than 20 arrests to his credit, based on what I was able to learn from the Web site www.courts.state.md. Donald Rice was 49 years old and had been charged over the years with assault, resisting arrest, drug possession and theft.

On Aug. 16 of last year, apparently Rice went completely bonkers. Baltimore County police charged him with 28 offenses stemming from one incident. Most of the charges were dropped, but Rice served at least six months anyway.

He’d only been out of prison three days when he met his tragic but predictable end in that backyard. Rice sounds much like the character Vernon Johns notoriously eulogized. (Johns was the immediate predecessor of Martin Luther King Jr. at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.)

The deceased was, like Rice, a career miscreant. Those expecting a sympathetic eulogy didn’t know Johns very well.

“He lived a trifling and useless life,” Johns said. “He walked around Montgomery daring someone to slit his throat. Last week somebody obliged him. He lived like a dog; he died like a dog. Undertaker, claim the body.”

Rice seemed cut from the same cloth, which may be why some in the Baltimore area cheered his death. But, inevitably, some cast him as a victim too. A Baltimore Sun editorial lamented the killing, claiming that “even burglars don’t deserve to be killed with a razor-sharp sword.” (That leaves us all to ponder this question: What, exactly, DO burglars deserve to be killed with?) Later, in the same editorial, the writer pondered what would have happened if Rice had been armed.

And there, dear readers, you have a classic example of what I call lib-think. I take it you noticed the underlying assumption: Criminals are supposed to be armed. It’s kind of in their job description. But law-abiding citizens being armed? Oh, perish the thought.

Let’s suppose how the scenario would have played out had Pontolillo been armed, not with a samurai sword, but a handgun.

Would Rice have been so quick to lunge? Or would he have turned tail and skedaddled, which is what criminals tend to do when confronted with gun-toting, law-abiding citizens?

I can see the scenario: Pontolillo says to Rice, “Mr. Burglar, I’d like you to meet two of my best buddies ever, those esteemed Americans Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. You might want to stay put until police arrive.”

And Rice would have done so. Or fled. Bottom line: He’d be alive today to tell the tale. So private ownership of firearms actually saves lives, and could have saved Rice’s.

That’s not just my opinion. Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, has done research to show that Americans use firearms one million times a year to defend themselves.

According to the book “The Seven Myths of Gun Control” by Richard Poe, Kleck found that “in 98 percent of those cases, no shots [were] fired. The criminal [fled] at the mere sight of the gun.”

If there’s a lesson for Pontolillo to learn, it’s to give up that sword and buy a handgun.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Health Reform is Just Subterfuge; Dream is Democratic Dictatorship

By now the realization should be taking hold that the Democrats’ health care plan has been exposed as a hoax. And it was the Democrats themselves who discredited and exposed it, but in a very ironic way. Of course, you won’t hear this bombshell news reported by Democrat partisans Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams.

As for the substance, remember the Democrats’ original rationale for their national health care takeover scheme? They wanted all uninsured Americans to be covered, right? Remember?

But now they concede that their mega-upheaval of a plan would still leave about 15 million without medical insurance. Yet they still advocate the plan! Why?

[…]

When American business, American jobs and the American people become totally dependent on Obama and the Democrats for money and credit, including student loans for good measure, how much power will that give the Obama Democrats over our country?

The portrait coming into focus is one of either totalitarian socialism or an unholy socialist hybrid with fascism. And when you are dependent on the decision of a Democrat bureaucrat for crucial medical treatment, how much power does that give the Democrats over you?

(Do you suppose party registration or political contributions might enter the bureaucrats’ calculus? Recall how, in the GM reorganization, the Dems axed profitable dealers who were known to be Republican.)

When the Democrats achieve literal death-grip power over the lives of all our people, that is when they also achieve their long-cherished dream of absolute power and a Democrat dictatorship.

Dictatorship in a virtual one-party state is the correct forecast because our present rulers can never be voted out of national power after they grant amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens, who would promptly be registered as mostly Democrat voters by Acorn!

Now do you see what the real scheme is? Now does it all make sense? This is not your father’s Democrat party. This is also not about health care, ultimately. It’s about raw political power and the long-promised socialist takeover of the United States.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


How a Power Giant Profits From Greenhouse Regs

No electricity source emits as much greenhouse gas as coal, and no power company uses as much coal as American Electric Power. So why is AEP lobbying for the climate-change legislation restricting greenhouse emissions?

AEP emphatically endorsed the American Clean Energy and Security Act last week in a public letter signed by Michael Morris, its chairman, chief executive officer, and president. In its second-quarter lobbying report, AEP wrote that it was “for and against various provisions, generally in favor.”

The bill in question — also called by its initials, ACES, or by its House sponsors, Waxman-Markey — places a national cap on greenhouse-gas emissions from many industrial sources. In effect, this adds to the cost of burning coal.

“Without this bill, without a strict regime for controlling carbon emissions, Big Oil and Big Coal win,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif. “And the environment, endangered species, our kids, our grandkids, you, and I will be the losers.”

Got that? It’s Big Coal against the children.

AEP, however, qualifies as Big Coal. One of the biggest electricity producers in the country, AEP generates more than two-thirds of its electricity by burning coal. Many years, the company is the Western Hemisphere’s largest consumer of coal.

So how come AEP is on the same side as Woolsey, Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, not to mention “our kids” and the “endangered species”?

The reason has little to do with kids and everything to do with self-interest: Waxman-Markey, if it passes the Senate in similar form, could profit AEP at the expense of its customers and probably smaller competitors.

The bill requires many businesses to “pay for” their GHG emissions with permits, also known as “carbon credits,” whose supply is controlled by the government. Waxman-Markey would give away 85 percent of the credits initially, allocating the credits among different industries. AEP, a diverse company, might be able to tap three of the bill’s piles of free credits — the 30 percent going to electricity distributors, the 2 percent going to electric utilities, and the 5 percent going to merchant coal generators.

While AEP would get credits for free, that doesn’t mean they’re worthless. If the company has more credits than emissions, AEP could sell these credits to needy companies. That means Waxman-Markey could spell profits.

Also, because much of AEP’s business is as a regulated utility — meaning it effectively faces no competition, and the state government sets its rates — some of its costs can be passed onto consumers.

Morris told Forbes that Waxman-Markey would benefit the company. Morris said, “I’ll have both enough allowances and I will have created or bought enough offsets to handle” the smaller emissions reductions the bill would mandate. He added: “I’ll probably be putting capital to work on carbon-capture and storage technology … because the current climate bill includes substantial incentives for early carbon capture.”

Morris predicted rate increases of between 30 and 50 percent in the long run, which the company couldn’t impose without the clean-energy or carbon-capture investments that Waxman-Markey would subsidize. “So for my business it’s good as long as my customers don’t leave,” which he doesn’t expect to happen.

There are other angles to AEP’s embrace of Waxman-Markey. Richard L. Sandor sits on AEP’s 12-member board of directors, and he is also the chairman and CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange. CCX is a for-profit company that serves as the trading floor for carbon credits, which is fairly slow business these days, as there are no mandatory carbon caps in the United States.

But if Waxman-Markey becomes law, the CCX will be the heart of carbon-trading action.

AEP’s interest in Waxman-Markey — in crafting fine print and ensuring its passage — helps explains the company’s eleven-fold increase in lobbying. From 1999 through 2007, the company averaged less than a million dollars in annual lobbying expenses. Since the beginning of 2007, AEP has spent almost $1 milllion on lobbying every month — $16 million over the last six quarters.

AEP officials say this lobbying, although it will boost rates, isn’t against its customers’ interests. The Environmental Protection Agency will regulate GHGs if Congress doesn’t, they say.

Although Congress could block EPA regulation if it wanted to, AEP argues that greenhouse-gas regulation is inevitable — and that the lobbyists’ job is to make sure that regulation is profitable for AEP.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Hunt Begins for Records on ACORN’s Fed Funds

‘Obama needs to come clean about relationship with disgraced organization’

“The Obama administration needs to come clean to the American people about its relationship with this disgraced organization, especially in light of President Obama’s personal connections to ACORN,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement.

“Given ACORN’s scandalous record, the federal government has no business supporting the organization with taxpayer dollars,” Fitton said. “It is troubling, given President Obama’s promises of transparency, we have had to sue to try to gain access to the ACORN documents.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Importer Tries to Get Around Clove Smoke Ban

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This article doesn’t show it as well as the SCMP.com article “Smoke and Ire” (can’t read without a subscription), but this is ban is another dumb decision that could spark some major trade wars. The FDA bans flavored cigarettes including clove cigarettes — MAJOR Indonesian export — along with all the fruity things — not sure how much clove cigarettes appeal to kids compared to other stuff…but other “flavors” like menthol which are common in US-made brands aren’t affected by the ban at all…]

RICHMOND, Va. — The nation’s top distributor of clove cigarettes is offering fans a new way to get their fix after the spice-flavored cigarettes are banned later this year — cigars.

The new filtered cigars — close to the size of a cigarette and flavored with clove, vanilla and cherry — allow Kretek International Inc., which imports Djarum-brand tobacco products from Indonesia, to avoid new federal laws banning flavored cigarettes other than menthol.

The ban on flavored cigarettes, which critics say appeal to teenagers, goes into effect at the end of September. It doesn’t include cigars.

The difference? Cigarettes are wrapped in thin paper, cigars in tobacco leaves. While the cigars also are made with a different kind of tobacco, the taste is similar. The cigars come 12 to a pack, rather than 20 for cigarettes, but cost nearly half as much.

The ban is one of the first visible effects of a new law signed by President Barack Obama in June that gives the Food and Drug Administration wide-ranging authority to regulate tobacco, though it can’t ban nicotine or tobacco outright.

The new law gives the FDA the power to ban other products like flavored cigars, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Whether the cigars are truly different or just an attempt to circumvent the ban by making superficial changes is in the hands of the FDA, said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“The key is the legislation gives the FDA the authority to respond to these types of frankly totally irresponsible actions,” Myers said.

Myers joined executives from the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and the Amercian Legacy Foundation late last month urging the FDA to take a closer look at the issue.

Often associated with hippies and other bohemians, clove cigarettes may be the most well-known target of the ban. Some major cigarette makers experimented with mint- or chocolate-flavored blends earlier this decade, but many of those products are no longer made after coming under fire, accused of targeting children.

John Geoghegan, director of brand development for Moorpark, Calif.-based Kretek International, said the private company has been “puzzled about (the ban) since the very beginning” because clove cigarettes constitute less than 1 percent of cigarettes sold in the U.S.

“For people to say, ‘Well, clove is a starter cigarette or a trainer cigarette’ or something was just preposterous,” Geoghegan said, citing company research about when and how consumers begin smoking.

Kretek International holds a 97 percent U.S. market share with its line of Djarum clove cigarettes, a staple of Indonesian smoking culture.

The U.S. market for clove cigarettes is about $140 million annually, with about 1.25 million clove smokers. Cloves have been imported to the U.S. since the 1960s and are mostly smoked by people younger than 30.

While Geoghegan said clove cigarettes make up about 65 percent of Kretek International’s business, the ban is “damaging but not fatal” because of the company’s other products like lighters and pipe tobacco.

Now, clove smokers are being forced to decide whether to switch to the new cigars, or quit. Many will likely stock up or try to buy product over the Internet.

And how the ban will work remains a point of contention for shop owners who sell clove cigarettes. But the FDA says the message is clear: Flavored cigarettes are banned, and the agency has the authority necessary to enforce the prohibition.

“So, what do we do with the stuff that’s on the shelves? Who eats that? Is it legal to sell until it’s gone or what?” asked Jim Carlson, owner of two CVille Smoke Shop stores in Charlottesville, Va., about 70 miles northwest of Richmond.

Carlson said he sells about 3,000 packs of the flavored cigarettes a year.

“You don’t make a lot of money, but still it’s income … and it brings customers into the store,” he said.

Lake Isabella, Calif., resident Terry Day, 42, used to drive 240 miles round trip to buy clove cigarettes when he lived in rural Valentine, Neb. He said he might try the cigars but was dubious about whether he would like them.

“I certainly don’t like to be forced into that choice,” said the clove smoker of 14 years. “I’m probably going to buy me enough to last until Oct. 1, then I’m just going to have to quit.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Kirk to Obama: Withdraw Grants to Libyan Charities

The Obama Administration plans to give $400,000 in funding to a Libyan charity run by the Gadhafi family, and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants the grant withdrawn.

[…]

“Just weeks after the Gadhafi family celebrated the return of a terrorist responsible for the murders of 189 Americans, the U.S. taxpayer should not be asked to reward them with $400,000,” Kirk wrote to the president. “For the sake of the victims’ families who have endured so much pain these last few weeks, I ask you to withdraw your Administration’s request.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Mohammed Cartoonist to Speak at Yale

Free speech will be on the agenda when Kurt Westergaard and Lars Hedegaard visit students at Yale

The artist behind the infamous Mohammed cartoon, Kurt Westergaard, and the president of the International Free Press Society, Lars Hedegaard, will speak to Yale University students as a new book about the cartoon crisis is set to be published.

Yale University Press, an autonomous publishing house associated with the university, is releasing Danish author Jytte Clausen’s book ‘The Cartoons That Shook The World’ on Monday. The publisher has removed images of the cartoons from the book, reasoning that they might incite violence.

Westergaard’s cartoon, which depicts the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, was first published by Jyllands-Posten newspaper in 2005.

He and Hedegaard have been invited by a student organisation to speak at the university campus on 1 October, just three days after the book’s scheduled release.

Hedegaard told The Copenhagen Post that he would talk about the background of the crisis and the situation today. He expected Westergaard to talk about his art and what he wanted to express through his drawings.

The timing of the talk was appropriate, he said.

‘The decision of Yale University Press is of course despicable and a sign of censorship and fear. It’s a sad comment of our times that a well-respected company should bow to fear of threats,’ Hedegaard said.

Hedegaard also noted that 30 September is the fourth anniversary of the original publication of the drawings and announced plans to establish an annual event promoting free speech.

When asked if creating an International Free Speech Day on the cartoon anniversary would stir up negative feelings, Hedegaard said that it was not his intention to offend people.

‘We are simply making a statement that we have free speech in our country so that any ideology, or group or political party can be exposed to ridicule,’ said Hedegaard. ‘We can’t control people’s feelings’.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Muslims Gather at the Capitol for Prayer Event

About 1,000 people gathered Friday morning on the west front lawn of the Capitol, with more streaming in via charter buses and Metro, for a day of Muslim unity that organizers said was about prayer, not protest.

“We are decent Muslims,” said one of the organizers, Imam Ali Jaaher from Dar-ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth, N. J. “We work, we pay taxes. We are Muslims who truly love this country.”

Organizers had said they hoped 50,000 worshipers would show up for the traditional Muslim afternoon prayer at 1 p.m. But they said many people have been frightened away by the backlash against the event. Some conservative Christian groups and bloggers have been calling it anti-Christian and un-American.

Two groups of protesters gathered across the traffic circle from the gathering, waving banners and flags and passing out flyers with crosses and pro-Christian messages. One group, which stood next to a large wooden cross and two giant wooden tablets depicting the 10 commandments, was led by the Rev. Flip Benham of Concord. N.H.

“I would suggest we convert to Christ,” Benham shouted over a megaphone that was barely audible from the Muslim gathering. Islam “forces its dogma down your throat.”

Benham said he heard about the event last week and brought about a dozen supporters from around the country to protest it. He called Islam a “false religion.”

“Unfortunately, our president has opened up the door to this,” he said, gesturing toward people streaming toward the gathering. He “has prostrated Christianity to the level of other religions. That’s just stunning to me.”

[Return to headlines]


Newly Declassified Files Detail Massive FBI Data-Mining Project

A fast-growing FBI data-mining system billed as a tool for hunting terrorists is being used in hacker and domestic criminal investigations, and now contains tens of thousands of records from private corporate databases, including car-rental companies, large hotel chains and at least one national department store, declassified documents obtained by Wired.com show.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Makes Brown Feel Welcome at UN

Gordon Brown and President Obama made a conspicuous show of friendship at the UN today as they attended a Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation.

The US President greeted the Prime Minister with a handshake and a pat on the back as he circled the horseshoe-shaped council table to meet the assembled world leaders.

Because of the alphabetical seating plan, Mr Brown and Mr Obama sat separated only by a single seat, filled by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

After the meeting, Mr Brown and Mr Obama left the room together for a Security Council ante-chamber and emerged smiling past the cameras about 10 minutes later with Mr Obama guiding Mr Brown with a hand on the back.

They then headed together to their next engagement — a meeting of the “Friends of Democratic Pakistan” at the Waldorf Hotel — which they were co-chairing with Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistani Prime Minister.

As Mr Obama greeted other leaders, Mr Brown also had a lengthy conversation with Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

The Prime Minister had been rebuffed this week in his request for a formal one-on-one sit-down with Mr Obama and was reduced to having a “walk-and-talk” through a UN kitchen after a reception on Tuesday night.

After media reports about tensions between the leaders, London and Washington both released statements today insisting that the Special Relationship was in fine fettle.

A White House spokesman said: “Any stories that suggest trouble in the bilateral relationship between the United States and UK are totally absurd.

“We would add that President Obama and Prime Minister Brown enjoy a terrific relationship, they speak regularly on a range of the most difficult challenges facing our two nations, and meet frequently.”

Downing Street denied that Mr Brown had been snubbed over five potential get-togethers while Lord Mandelson said he did not recognise the reports of No 10 desperately trying to arrange face-to-face meetings.

“I don’t really understand what all this hoo-hah is about, to be perfectly honest,” said the Business Secretary.

“The Prime Minister talks regularly to President Obama. I doubt whether President Obama has a closer ally for the US than the British Prime Minister.

“They are doing that because they have a lot in common. They share values, they share interests and their policies are very similar as well.”

Although Mr Brown appeared to have patched up any tension with Mr Obama, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev left the Security Council half way through Mr Brown’s speech.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, got a warm double-fisted handshake from Mr Obama at the end of the Security Council mission.

[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Policies Would Redistribute Nearly $1 Trillion in Wealth Every Year

By 2012, nearly $1 trillion from the top 30 percent of American families will be redistributed among the bottom 70 percent if Obama’s proposals on taxes, health care, and climate change become law, according to the Tax Foundation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama to Congress: Forget it!

President ‘disregards’ missile defense mandate

President Obama’s decision to cancel a plan to deploy defensive missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic may have put him at odds with a 10-year-old requirement from Congress “to deploy as soon as technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense,”according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

[…]

In doing its analysis of various missile defense options, the CBO looked at three approaches in addition to the Bush administration’s proposal.

The alternatives included the sea-based system which the Obama administration now has selected, mobile missile defenses located in Germany and Turkey and forward-positioned Kinetic Energy Interceptors also located in Germany and Turkey.

The CBO concluded the Bush administration proposal was preferable to the three alternative solutions. In fact, the Kinetic Energy Interceptors weren’t even an option during the latest round of consideration since it was cut from the Pentagon’s missile defense budget earlier this year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Obama Won’t Win by Calling Opponents Cowards

During his current media bombardment, President Obama is wisely downplaying the charges of racism his allies have been making.

He told CNN’s John King that race wasn’t “the overriding issue” for the opponents of his health care plan. Not exactly an exoneration of his critics’ racial attitudes, but at least an acknowledgment that there is more than bigotry at work.

What Obama says is really driving the negative response to his policies is fear. Fear of “big changes.” Fear of “uncertainty.”

The president likes to equate the resistance he’s facing with that met by Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.

It’s nice that Obama wants to put himself in such elite presidential company, but Roosevelt’s first year saw the passage of at least 10 major pieces of domestic legislation and two constitutional amendments. Obama has so far managed to produce two very large spending bills, keep his predecessor’s bailouts going and little else.

Roosevelt actually changed the country in his first eight months. And did it with a quarter of the work force idled and the banks out of money. People were afraid that the republic might fail and mostly welcomed FDR’s boldness.

Today, Americans aren’t so much afraid as they are tired of treading water economically and pessimistic that anything the government can do will make it better.

Even so, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel last week compared the president’s detractors to Father Coughlin, the racist, populist radio priest whose anti-Roosevelt rants were the targets of some of the first free-speech restrictions on the airwaves.

Coughlin actually wanted more changes and more socialism than Roosevelt, not less. But you get where Team Obama is coming from. It sees demagogues leading flocks of fearful followers away from the bright light of progress.

Emanuel pictures a nation of modern-day Joads. He sees victims of the foreclosure dust bowl huddled around their laptops, hanging on Glenn Beck’s every blog post and too panic-stricken to see the wisdom of Obamacare.

First, we were told it was fear of the unknown. Once we understood the plan, we would cease to be afraid.

When the president was selling a nonexistent plan this summer, it did sound pretty sketchy.

At his July 22 news conference, when asked about what people would have to sacrifice for the sake of universal coverage, Obama said: “They’re going to have to give up paying for things that don’t make them healthier.”

So yes, Dr. Obama’s Traveling Medicine Show did not inspire confidence. But it is rational to be skeptical of a politician who proposes huge changes and promises only good results.

The president, though, blamed the peddlers of “myths” and “distortions” of his imaginary plans for droopy polls and the outrage being expressed at town hall meetings.

The White House said the anxieties would begin to fade when Obama came forward with his own robust plan and sold it aggressively.

And the president did just that Sept. 9, including all of the elements his liberal supporters wanted in a rousing speech. And again he saw fear, not disagreement, as the problem.

“It has never been easy, moving this nation forward. There are always those who oppose it and those who use fear to block change,” Obama told a joint session of Congress.

There was a brief bounce in support for the plan based on the delivery of the speech. And then people found out that the president was really proposing federally mandated coverage, cuts to popular existing programs and new financial burdens on middle-class families.

Now, Obama is trying to recapture the momentum by assaulting the airwaves like a buttoned-down Billy Mays, pitching national health care instead of synthetic chamois cloths.

He says he is on TV to battle fear at a time “of transition,” as if all roads lead in the direction of government health care but foolish fears can delay the inevitable.

The best liberal thinkers, including Obama, have been working for years to bring working-class whites back into the Democratic Party and re-create the unbeatable coalition of the New Deal. FDR built that coalition by addressing the shared, urgent fears of blacks and whites, farmers and mill workers, and Yankees and Southerners. And Obama believes he can do it again.

But telling people that fear is the reason they have misgivings about an outlandish-sounding solution to a long-term problem is insulting, not reassuring.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Obama’s Malpractice on Medical Lawsuits

Since Mississippi passed lawsuit abuse reform in 2004, including caps on medical malpractice awards, the Magnolia State has seen the number of such claims decline 91 percent. The state’s largest medical malpractice insurer dropped its premiums by 42 percent, and it has offered an additional 20 percent rebate to doctors and hospitals of the premiums they pay each year.

Following his recent address to a joint session of Congress, President Obama announced plans to implement token “demonstration projects” on lawsuit abuse, but he’s still not willing to address the issue meaningfully in health care reform legislation. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, has a message for him: “If they want a demonstration project, come down to Mississippi. I’ll show you a demonstration project.”

As Barbour puts it, medical malpractice reform is the “lowest-hanging fruit” in the debate over spiraling medical costs. Such reform cannot solve all of the complex problems in our health care system, but it will reduce the drag that high health care costs are having on our economy — a major goal of the president’s reform effort. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2003 that unreasonable medical malpractice jury awards add as much as $126 billion to Americans’ health care costs each year.

Unfortunately, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are wholly owned by the trial lawyer lobby, so they will bypass this low-hanging fruit without giving it a second thought. They will thus miss a simple, proven reform in favor of implementing a government-run health care system that is certain to cause health care costs to skyrocket while the quality of health care plummets.

Trial lawyers argue that limits on non-economic damages deprive aggrieved patients of their right to sue. But the experience in California, where such limits have been in place since 1975, does not bear this out. Legitimately harmed patients still sue and win reasonable awards. And hordes of trial lawyers are still gainfully employed there.

Obama entered this debate promising to fight “well-financed foes” who “profit from the status quo.” Yet, he has cultivated every special interest that stands to profit from health care “reform.” The big drugmakers and insurers have spent tens of millions promoting his plan. He stands ready to ditch the “public option,” the only provision that the insurers oppose. And he won’t take on the trial lawyers, despite the proven benefits and low cost of medical malpractice lawsuit abuse reform.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Right’s Czar Mania is a Distraction

“No more czars!” is the new tea party rallying cry, as conservatives across the country fear that President Obama has unleashed a legion of unaccountable bureaucratic overlords on the body politic.

Having helped oust Van Jones, Obama’s “green jobs” czar, Fox News’ Sean Hannity swears that he won’t rest until he’s gotten “rid of every other one.” But if he succeeds, will the country be appreciably freer, or the government noticeably smaller?

No, it won’t, because the conservatives’ current bout of czar mania elevates symbolism over substance. All the focus on a scary moniker for certain executive officials misses the real problem: Unconstitutional delegation of power to the executive branch. Whether those illegitimate powers are exercised by unconfirmed presidential advisers or the president himself is quite beside the point.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., notes that you won’t find the word “czar” in the Constitution; but you won’t find it in federal law either. That’s because “czar” is a media-coined, catchall term for presidential assistants tasked with coordinating policy on issues that cut across departmental lines.

Officials dubbed “czars” range from the truly powerful, like Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, to the ineffectual such as cybersecurity czar Melissa Hathaway, who quit last month because she lacked real authority.

Often, czars are mere figureheads, appointed to signal concern over the latest hot-button issue. As one presidential scholar puts it, “when in doubt, create a czar.”

True, it’s problematic that some of these appointees aren’t vetted by the Senate, and that presidents claim czars don’t have to answer to Congress — as when the Bush administration asserted in 2002 that executive privilege shielded then-homeland security czar Tom Ridge from testifying on the Hill.

But as the Washington Independent’s Dave Weigel has pointed out, many of the “czars” who appear on the conservative target list already have to be confirmed by the Senate. Others don’t, but when Obama is hell-bent on taking over the health care sector — one-sixth of the U.S. economy — it’s bizarre to agonize over the allegedly unchecked power exercised by the likes of the AIDS and urban affairs czars.

Similarly, while it’s great to see a 9/11 “Truther” like Van Jones denied a federal salary, few of those cheering Jones’ defenestration can coherently explain what the green jobs czar actually does, or the threat he was supposed to represent.

What, was Jones going to give 9/11 “Truthers” and black nationalists jobs weatherizing homes? Will we stop wasting money on such projects now that he’s gone?

In contrast, the “pay czar” and the “car czar” have considerable power, and such offices have no place in a free country. But it was Obama himself, not his car czar, who summarily fired the chief executive officer of General Motors. Is that power less disturbing when it’s exercised directly by the president, rather than delegated to a so-called “czar”?

Blame Congress. The “pay czar” grew out of a provision Congress passed with the stimulus package, ordering the Treasury Department to come up with rules on executive compensation for firms taking Troubled Assets Relief Program money.

The auto bailout itself is a result of congressional fecklessness. Many in Congress protested when President George W. Bush used the TARP statute to lend billions to Chrysler and GM. How, they asked, could that possibly be authorized by a law allowing the purchase of “troubled assets” from “financial institutions”?

If they’d bothered to read the bill, they’d know. Those terms were so loosely defined in the statute that they gave Bush and Obama a colorable argument for reshaping the bailout as they saw fit. Here congressional outrage was more than a day late and $700 billion short.

There’s plenty Congress can and should do to enhance oversight over executive branch officials. Yale Law’s Bruce Ackerman argues that “we need to seriously consider requiring Senate approval of senior White House staff positions.” But as long as Congress continues to write blank checks to the executive branch, it’s the height of hypocrisy for them to complain about that branch’s unchecked power.

Examiner Columnist Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and the author of “The Cult of the Presidency.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Schoolhouse Shariah

Multiculturalism: California’s educrats have put out new rules for teaching Islamic studies to seventh-graders in public schools, and they are as biased as ever. They’ll also likely spread eastward.

The lesson guidelines adopted by the bellwether state whitewash the violence and oppression of women codified in Islamic law, or Shariah. And they’re loaded with revisionist history about the faith.

For example, the suggested framework glorifies Shariah as a liberal reform movement that “rejected” the mistreatment of women that existed in Arabia before Muhammad and his successors conquered the region, according to Accuracy in Academia. The guidelines claim that Islamic law established for the first time that men and women were entitled to equal “respect.”

Not so, says Islamic scholar and author Nonie Darwish, who grew up Muslim in Egypt.

“I am shocked that that is what they teach,” she said. “Women had more rights in Arabia before Shariah.”

In fact, “wife beating is allowed under Shariah” today, she added. “It allows a woman seen without a headdress to be flogged, punishes rape victims, and calls for beheading for adultery.”

California’s course on world religions also omits Islam’s long history of jihadist violence, while portraying Christianity as an intolerant and bloodthirsty faith…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]


Sen. Jim Inhofe: Obama’s “You’re on Your Own” Foreign Policy

When President George W. Bush was in the White House, U.S. foreign policy was widely criticized as arrogantly unilateral, and was branded by critics here and abroad as the “go it alone” approach to international relations.

Now, it seems that a dangerous new strategy for American international relations has taken shape. In stark contrast to Bush, Obama favors a “you’re on your own” approach to foreign policy, leaving our allies and strong supporters of democracy second-guessing America’s intentions.

Obama’s decision against fielding the U.S. missile-defense sites for Europe that Poland and the Czech Republic previously agreed to host is only the most recent illustration of Obama’s approach.

In June of this year, Obama let democratic protesters in Iran know that they were on their own after the contested elections there, even as the ayatollah’s police thugs violently assaulted the demonstrators.

Not a month later, Obama sided with the likes of Hugo Chavez and in effect said “you’re on your own” to democrats in Honduras as they tried to enforce the country’s democratic constitution to prevent a slide into a Venezuelan-style dictatorship. Similarly, Obama’s support for Israel, democracy’s clearest beacon and America’s greatest ally in the Middle East, has been consistently reserved, at best.

But when Obama turned his back on our European allies by canceling the European-based missile-defense site, his attitude struck especially hard. When the missile-defense site agreement was signed in 2008, Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski said, “this is a great success for Poland.”

Under the original U.S. plan, the United States would provide protection against long-range ballistic missile threats with 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, working with a radar in the Czech Republic. Protection against short- and midrange missile threats would come from NATO forces.

The European GBI system, would be tested in 2010 and in place to protect Europe and the U.S. against intermediate and long-range ballistic missiles from Iran by 2013.

With the shield now scrapped, Poland’s Kaczynski has said that the new strategy leaves his nation in a dangerous “gray zone” between Western Europe and the old Soviet sphere.

Similarly, former Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who signed the missile agreement with the United States, said, “This is not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence. It puts us in a position wherein we are not firmly anchored in terms of partnership, security and alliance, and that’s a certain threat.”

White House officials argue that Obama has an alternative method to provide missile-defense coverage for Europe, but the alternative will take five years longer to field, and his 2009 budget cut $1.4 billion, or about 16 percent, of the Missile Defense Agency’s budget.

With Iran actively pursuing its development of long-range ballistic missiles, and being well on its way to having a nuclear weapon, canceling the European GBI missile-defense site will unnecessarily put our long-time allies in Europe at risk.

Whatever Obama says to the United Nations, his foreign policy is already devastating to this nation’s credibility.

Hopefully, Obama will realize the error in an approach that turns our back on our allies, while appeasing our enemies. If not, when we have need for support from our allies, we may find ourselves on our own.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-OK, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


States Reassert Sovereignty With Legislation

There’s a growing movement on the part of states to override federal laws and regulations under the 10th Amendment, which reserves powers to the states not delegated to the federal government. So far, the battle lines have been drawn at Real ID, medical marijuana and firearms, but federally mandated health insurance may not be far behind.

State sovereignty resolutions were introduced in 37 states this year; seven passed. Although the resolutions are not legally binding, Tenth Amendment Center founder Michael Boldin said they “serve notice” that states will no longer automatically enforce federal mandates in areas they believe the central government has no constitutional authority.

Montana’s first-in-the-nation law reasserting state authority with the regulation of firearms manufactured and sold within state boundaries was soon followed by a similar law in Tennessee. Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have already sent letters to gun dealers and federal permit holders in both states telling them to ignore the state law. A court battle is next.

Nearly 20 other states have similar legislation in the works, including directives to their governors to order National Guard troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Next year, Arizona will have a state constitutional amendment on the ballot that allows residents to opt out of any national health care program.

“The federal government doesn’t rule to limit its own power very often. I don’t think going to court and trying to litigate is the best way to put the federal government in a constitutional box,” Boldin said, pointing out that popular resistance to the hated Stamp Act led by Revolutionary War heroes Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry “effectively nullified the law.” The same thing happened with the Real ID Act, which many states refused to enforce. “The feds had to back off three times,” Boldin said.

State sovereignty supporters stand on solid historical ground. James Madison’s “Virginia Plan,” which would have given Congress veto power with state laws and allowed the federal judiciary to hear all disputes, was soundly defeated by the signers of the Constitution. A needed check on an overreaching federal government that grows bigger by the day, the reassertion of state sovereignty should be a welcome development to Americans concerned about losing their liberties — just like the Founders were.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Video: Shocker: Kids Taught to Sing Obama’s Praises

Lyrics to historic melody: ‘Hooray, Mr. President, you are No. 1’

School children in New Jersey have been taught to both chant and sing praises to President Obama, with a YouTube video revealing them singing, “Mr. President, We Honor You Today” to the tune of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

The children also are seen being taught the chant: “Barack Hussein Obama.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


White House Dismisses Fox News as ‘Ideological Outlet, ‘ Renewing Feud

President Obama’s Sunday media blitz of five networks deliberately left out Fox News, with the administration calling it an “ideological outlet.”

But by passing over “Fox News Sunday” with host Chris Wallace, Obama skipped over an audience of up to 3 million viewers who tune in regularly to watch the show and its reruns.

Some political strategists are calling the move a mistake.

“Cutting this network out actually sends a larger message of just how sensitive and petty the West Wing has become,” said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, who was a top aide to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

The White House indeed took aim at Fox, with a spokesman saying, “We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” referring to the network’s decision to run the popular dance show on its broadcast stations instead of airing an Obama news conference in July.

The news conference ran on the Fox News cable network.

In an interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Wallace called the administration “the biggest bunch of crybabies I’ve ever dealt with in my 30 years in Washington.”

On Sunday, Wallace interviewed Bertha Lewis, chief executive officer of the embattled Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which is on the verge of losing federal funding after undercover filmmakers found staffers aiding people posing as pimps and prostitutes.

Obama refused to appear on the show throughout the 2008 election. Wallace had an “Obama Watch” that counted up 768 days from when Obama agreed to appear and his first and only sit-down with Wallace in April.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ahmadinejad Did Not Cross EU ‘Red Line’ With UN Speech, Says Sweden (EU Presidency)

Sweden, Finland and non-EU Norway stayed in the room when Ahmadinejad spoke

STOCKHOLM (AFP-EJP)—-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not cross the “red line” that would have prompted a walkout by all EU states in his speech at the United Nations, the Swedish foreign ministry said Thursday.

“There were certain criteria set for when the EU would leave the room and those criteria were not fulfilled,” spokeswoman Cecilia Julin said.

Sweden currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

The criteria agreed in New York before the Iranian leader spoke included denying the Holocaust and calling for the annihilation of Israel, which Ahmadinejad avoided doing this time.

Even so, a number of EU states did walk out when Ahmadinejad attacked Israel, including Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary and Italy.

“We’re not commenting on who left or who didn’t leave,” Julin said. “I think there were other reasons for other countries that decided to leave.”

In his address, Ahmadinejad again took aim at Israel but without mentioning the country or Jews by name, referring only to the “Zionist regime.”

He accused Israel of “inhumane policies in Palestine,” including genocide, and seeking to “establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the US, to attain its racist ambitions.”

Suggesting there was a Jewish conspiracy, Ahmadinejad added: “It is no longer acceptable that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks.”

He accused Jews of seeking to “establish a new form of slavery, and harm the reputation of other nations, even European nations and the US, to attain its racist ambitions.”

Israel had called for a boycott of the speech, and was not present when the Iranian leader spoke.

Canada heeded the boycott call, while delegations from Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, New Zealand and the United States also left the room as Ahmadinejad began to rail against Israel, a European source said.

Earlier this week, the European Union presidency issued a statement condemning Ahmadinejad for his statements on the Holocaust and on Israel, saying such remarks “encourage anti-Semitism and hatred”.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Austria: Turkish Diplomat Accused of Drunk Driving

A Turkish diplomat has been ordered to prove he was on official duty after he refused to take a breath test when stopped by cops in Salzburg yesterday (Tues) morning.

Police said they had been called out at 5:25am after witnesses reported seeing an “obviously drunk” man driving in the city’s Parsch district.

The man, who showed them a diplomatic passport, refused a breath test and now police have said he will only be immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity laws if he can prove he was driving in the course of his official duties.

They added the man had caused problems in the past and had hurled drunken abuse at passersby just months ago.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]


Austrian Right Holds on to Power in Regional Election

The Austrian right looks to have held its grip on power in the Western province of Vorarlberg following regional elections on Sunday.

Early estimations put Herbert Sausgruber’s OVP ahead with just over 50 per cent of the vote.

But it is the far right Austrian Freedom Party which made the biggest gains, Dieter Egger’s party is accredited with 25 per cent — enough to put it ahead of the Social Democrats, who picked up just 10 per cent of votes.

261 000 people were called on to elect 36 members to the regional parliament.

The rise of the Freedom Party has concerned observers who accuse its leader Egger of making anti-semitic statements, notably telling a museum director that as a “jew in exile in America” he should shut up and not mix in Austrian politics.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Climate: Franceschini, Premier’s Choices Against Obama’s

(AGI) — Rome, 24 Sep. — Dario Franceschini, secretary of the Italian Partito Democratico, issued a statement today: “At the same exact time when the environmental issue becomes, to the eyes of the whole world, on of the key factors to overcome the crisis, the Italian premier, despite his own words, insists in demanding reductions in the Italian effort to reduce CO2 emissions. It is a serious stance, which ridicules Italy also in front of international organizations. On the other hand, only yesterday, the government has inflicted further cuts, through the financial bill, to the detriment of the environment and of the great opportunities of economic recovery based on environmental choices. The y scrapped the eco-bonus funding, which guaranteed a 55% reimbursement for building or renovating with an eye to energy saving and eco compatibility. This bonus had been used so far by hundreds of thousands households and proved to be a great economic engine. Hundreds of small or medium sized enterprises, thousands of artisan, were the stronghold of a budding ‘green economy’ with the government is now risking to sink. On the other hand, not much can be expected of a premier whom considered thinking about the environment during an economic crisis the same as going for a perm when having pneumonia. But instead, it is the crisis itself that must encourage us to make energy saving, alternative energy sources and eco-compatible building the sector on which to build economic recovery, It is useless to claim to agree with Mr. Obama with words, to then contradict oneself with choices that go in the exact opposite direction”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Police Grab Illegal Arsenal

Northern Jutland Police have found and confiscated almost 500 illegal firearms from an underground group of weapons dealers.

Northern Jutland police have infiltrated a major network of allegedly illegal weapons dealers and have confiscated 480 guns, among others firearms that have been used in the ongoing gang war in Copenhagen.

Dept. Chief Superintendant Frank Olsen tells TV2News that 11 men have been arrested, adding that the men have denied trading in weapons, but have said that they have a big interest in firearms.

According to the police, which terms the weapons discovery ‘unusual’, the 11 have been involved in repairing older weapons and are suspected of cross-border trading in more modern firearms.

Investigations have been ongoing since December 2008 and two men have already been sentenced in the case.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Ethnic Minorities Hope for Breakthrough in German Elections

Germany’s ethnic minorities are hoping for a historic breakthrough at Sunday’s general election as record numbers of candidates have overseas links.

Politicians of Turkish origin are expected to join the Bundestag in unprecedented numbers as the minority shakes off its “Cinderella” status as the guest workforce of the post-war economy.

Only 45 per cent of Germany’s four million Muslims — five per cent of the overall population — are registered as citizens but they have become increasingly influential.

Most gained citizenship only after laws were changed in 2000 to allow people of “non-German blood” to gain full political rights, opening the door to those who had lived in the country for decades.

“The dark-haired voters will show themselves,” said Safter Cinar, a spokesman for the Turkish Association in Berlin. “It is a great chance to voice their basic demands related to integration.”

Until now, few ethnic minority Germans have played a prominent role in national life and have never been appointed to a senior ministerial post or ambassador.

The Green Party has lead the efforts to recruit minority voters having elected Turks Cem Ozdemir as a co-leader and running other high profile candidates, such as Ozcan Mutlu in Berlin. “German politicians, for the first time in history, are campaigning in an effort to gain migrants’ votes, or at least, not to alienate them,” he said.

Other prominent candidates are standing for the hard-Left Die Linke and the mainstream SPD.

But the country’s leading party, the Christian Democrats (CDU) has struggled to find a footing with the new citizens. Its opposition to Turkish membership of the EU continues to overshadow its attempts at bridge-building. It has not emulated the Conservatives by promoting the candidacies by successful outsiders.

Turks in the CDU claim German’s leading party is changing but complain its not moving fast enough. Bulent Arslan, a CDU officer holder, said: “It’s right that immigrants be asked to love Germany, but Germany has to learn to love its immigrants too.”

The development has also triggered a backlash from Neo-Nazis. Police have opened an investigation into the extremist NPD party for inciting racial hatred after it served fake “deportation” orders on minority candidates.

One of those who received a letter from the “foreigners deportation” office of NPD acknowledged the difficulties of campaigning as a minority.

Hanaa al-Hussein, a candidate for the German Liberals (FDP), has faced harassment in the Lichtenberg district of Berlin, a bastion of racist groups and socially ostracised families associated with the East German Stasi secret police.

“The first time I was shocked,” she said. “I have no fear, but an inner insecurity has set in. Will I be watched where ever I go now?”

The 42-year-old consultant, who is the daughter of a road builder, came to Germany from Lebanon at the age of seven and gained citizenship after laws were changed in 2000.

While her campaign slogan of “Germany is diversity” proclaims a changing mood in Germany towards migrants the constituency she is contesting is unpromising territory. Almost one-fifth of Berlin’s racist crimes are committed in Lichtenberg.

There is also a philosophical divide between the new generation of Muslims and the deprived populations where immigrant candidates are standing.

Lichtenberg has voted in past elections for the far-Left Die Linke party which calls for wealth distribution to all. In contrast Miss Hussein believes in enabling “achievers” who can emulate her second generation record of self-improvement. She said: “My parents always said the only thing that cannot be taken from you is your education.”

[Return to headlines]


Euro Project to Arrest Us for What They Think We Will Do

Radical Think Tank Open Europe has this week exposed a study by the EU that could lead to the creation of a massive cross-Europe database, amassing vast amounts of personal data on every single citizen in the EU. The scope of this project also reveals a growing governmental preference for systems capable of locking people up not for what they have done, but for what they might do.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


European Commission Accused of Breaching Rules With Ryanair Stunt

The European Commission has been accused of a blatant breach of neutrality rules in Ireland’s Lisbon Treaty referendum after taking part in a Ryanair “Vote Yes” stunt involving airline boss Michael O’Leary.

Antonio Tajani, EC vice-president and transport commissioner, is alleged to have broken impartiality rules by accepting an invitation to fly across the country on a Ryanair Boeing 737, emblazoned with “Vote Yes for Europe” logos.

Ryanair is spending £445,000 on giving away free air tickets to promote the campaign as it struggles to reverse Irish referendum rejection in June 2008.

During six hours of flights on Tuesday, the commissioner was served chicken Bellenaise and wild rice as Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s boss, taunted the “No” campaign.

Mr Tajani stood silently by during a press conferences in which Mr O’Leary mocked Lisbon Treaty opponents as “numpties”, “numb nuts” and “clowns”.

But Mr O’Leary’s view was very different to the one he held last October, following Ireland’s first referendum rejection.

At the time he said: “It seems that only in the EU, Ireland and Zimbabwe are you forced to vote twice. The vote should be respected. It is the only democratic thing to do.”

Critics have accused him of changing his mind and launching the “Yes” campaign to curry favour with Brussels.

As transport commissioner, Mr Tajani plays a key role in competition rulings concerning the low-cost airlines and recently blocked a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus.

Joe Higgins, an Irish Socialist MEP opposed to the EU Treaty, has called for the commissioner’s resignation.

“Mr Tajani as removed any remaining shred of the Commission’s impartiality,” he said. “This tour seriously compromises his position. Ryanair is one of the biggest airlines in Europe.

“It has already and may come into further conflict with the Commission. It puts him in an utterly compromised position to have travelled around Ireland in a Ryanair plane, campaigning alongside Mr O’Leary.”

Erik Wesselius, of the Corporate Europe Observatory, a group that monitors links between the EU institutions and big business, described Mr Tajani’s presence as “a big mistake”.

“Tajani’s dealing with the decisions Ryanair is most interested in. This is a good lobbying opportunity for O’Leary,” he said.

“O’Leary might come back later to Tajani with some request and then he can remind Tajani of that day in September when O’Leary took him on tour through Ireland to supported the Yes campaign.”

Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, said: “The volte-face of Mr O’Leary stinks of financial opportunism, He is clearly a man of no political principles whatsoever.”

But Fabio Pirotta, Mr Tajani’s spokesman, insisted that “the commissioner was invited simply to give information on his portfolio”.

“There was absolutely no lobbying involved,” he said. “There was no discussion at all about commission decisions. The mention of Aer Lingus was only made at press conferences in full public view.”

A Ryanair spokesman said: “We want to remind Irish people of the tremendous benefits the EU has brought Ireland.”

The controversy comes just days after Brussels lobbyists organised a 500,00 euro (£445,000) whip-round in a last-ditch effort to boost Ireland’s ‘Yes’ campaign. The lobbyists were accused of interfering in the Oct 2 referendum in order to shore up the EU institutions they make profits from lobbying.

[Return to headlines]


Finland: Hospitals Ponder Treatment Priorities

Some hospitals in Finland are being forced to decide who should receive treatment on the basis of priority. The University Hospital of Turku, for example, is cutting nursing staff levels as a savings measure. Departments are being asked to determine what functions should be trimmed.

Similar efficiency measures are being planned at other hospitals as surgery queues grow.

A national treatment guarantee has forced hospitals to reduce queues for surgical treatment but the growing crisis in local government finances threatens this development. Hospitals are being forced to find savings in order to prevent a growth in queues for surgery.

The Hospital District of South Western Finland plans to divide care provision into five different categories. Life threatening cases would top the list while those further down the scale would not be treated in the public health care sector.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Greece: Terror Breakthrough for Police

Four suspected members of Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire face prosecutor after Athens blast

Four suspected members of a militant anarchist group believed to have organized Wednesday’s bloodless attack on the central Athens home of an opposition PASOK deputy, and several other bomb blasts this year, faced a prosecutor yesterday.

According to sources, police had been monitoring the suspects for months and had originally believed them to belong to the ranks of another militant group called Armed Revolutionary Action, best known for a tax office hit in Argyroupoli in 2007. But police said that evidence found after a raid on the home of two of the suspects in the northeastern Athens district of Halandri “indisputably” links them to a group called Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, which has become increasingly active over the past year. A homemade explosive device virtually identical to the one used in the bomb blast on the Kolonaki home of Louka Katseli on Wednesday was found in the Halandri house. Both devices had been deposited in cooking pots, as had been the case with a bomb that targeted the home of former Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis in Palaio Faliro in July that was claimed by Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire.

The four suspects detained, aged between 19 and 21, are all unemployed but from well-to-do families, sources said. The two arrested at the Halandri apartment on Wednesday night were the 21-year-old nephew of the apartment’s owner and his 20-year-old girlfriend. The other two were reportedly arrested in raids in Galatsi.

The police raid on the Halandri property turned up a homemade time bomb along with quantities of explosives, timers and numerous written documents that police were analyzing yesterday.

In what was seen as a protest at the arrest of the four terrorism suspects, a group of around 500 self-styled anarchists staged a rally in the central district of Exarchia late last night. At one point around 200 of them started throwing stones at a local police station and set fire to trash cans. No arrests or injuries were reported.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Ireland: O’Leary and Ganley Lock Horns in Bitter TV Showdown

ireland:O’Leary and Ganley lock horns in bitter TV showdown

RYANAIR chief executive Michael O’Leary and the main face of the ‘No’ to Lisbon campaign Declan Ganley locked horns last night in one of the most rancorous exchanges in the ongoing referendum campaign.

Mr Ganley was branded a failed politician who did not get a seat in an area where “even Dana got elected”.

Meanwhile, the airline chief was dubbed a puppet of Brussels who did not know what he was talking about.

Reversing

Earlier this week, Mr O’Leary called for a ‘Yes’ vote next week, reversing his position on the previous referendum. It was during a round of press conferences that Mr O’Leary agreed to a debate with Mr Ganley.

On RTE’s ‘Prime Time’ last night, Mr O’Leary said he supported the ‘Yes’ campaign after Ireland got assurances on keeping a commissioner and determining tax policy into the future. This was ridiculed by his opponent.

In return, Mr O’Leary threw scorn on Mr Ganley for returning to politics after committing to a withdrawal following his failure in the European elections. “You are only here because you wouldn’t accept the vote of the Irish people last year in the European elections. You couldn’t get elected.

“Even Dana got elected in your constituency. You wanted to be Dana. You said you could take no for an answer and yet here you are like another failed politician,” said Mr O’Leary.

During the frequently aggressive and abusive debate, host Miriam O’Callaghan called on the pair to stop the insults.

Mr Ganley said the Ryanair chief executive had been “rolled out to defend the indefensible”.

Mr Ganley added that he had got 67,638 votes “which is more votes than anyone sitting in Dail Eireann has got at the moment”.

“The fact is that this effectively ends democracy as we know it in the European Union. It is not alarmist, it is factual.”

Mr O’Leary said Libertas and other groups on the ‘No’ side were “economic illiterates”.

“Declan doesn’t like it which is why he is back campaigning again, having been denied a vote,” he said. When Mr Ganley responded, he said his opponent was manifesting his “complete lack of understanding of what the issue is”.

[Return to headlines]


Italy: New Lottery Prize — 4,000 Euros for 20 Years

Ten numbers to guess. Cards cost one euro with draws every hour

ROME — It won’t be the same thing as winning 148 million euros like the lucky Superenalotto punter in Bagnone. You’re not going to become super-rich overnight but you will have a 4,000 euro a month annuity. It’s like unexpectedly finding a very well-paid job but without having to work. A very decent, secure income for life. From next Monday, that’s the prospect for winners of the new Sisal lottery, Vinci per la vita (also known as Win for Life). Designed in collaboration with the state monopolies enterprise, it will give punters an easier-to-understand alternative to scratchcards or Superenalotto. “It’s immediate and more involving”, explains the state monopolies’ director of strategy, Antonio Tagliaferri. “It doesn’t encourage people to go crazy and bet too much. It’s a safe, responsible lottery to support Italy’s reconstruction effort in Abruzzo”.

Treasury revenue, 23% of each stake, will go to help earthquake victims. Sixty-five per cent will go into the prize fund, agencies’ commission will account for eight per cent and the rest will go to Sisal. Here’s how Win for Life will work. From Monday 28 September, there will be hourly draws every day from 8 am to 8 pm. Punters will be able to play ten out of twenty numbers on a special card at any lottery agency. Each player will be given a “numerone”, or wildcard number, by the computer. For a one-euro stake, punters who correctly guess all ten numbers and the wildcard number win the annuity of 4,000 euros a month. Spread over twenty years, that comes to almost one million euros (960,000 to be precise), not index-linked but tax-free and inheritable. There is a one in three and a half million chance of winning the annuity but, to take one example, it is 200 times more difficult to win the Superenalotto prize, or to guess the Lotto draw, which involves ninety numbers instead of twenty.

For a two-euro stake, the probability doubles. There are also four other prizes: 10,000 euros for guessing the ten numbers without the wildcard number; 100 euros for nine numbers; ten euros for eight numbers and two euros for seven. Winning numbers will be broadcast live on Sisaltv, the lottery agency TV channel, and on the sisal.it and giochinumeri.it websites. Numbers can also be checked at any time on Sisal computer terminals. “In the first half of 2009, we experienced 32.6% growth”, says Sisal’s CEO Emilio Petrone. He stresses that this had nothing to do with August’s mega-jackpot win, “because in June, the jackpot was still at a normal level”. Referring to the impact of the economic crisis, which supposedly encourages people to bet more, Mr Petrone is satisfied that “it’s just a popular fallacy. There’s actually been a slowdown in the gambling sector. We notice it as early as the third week in the month when stakes decline. However, we are reaping the reward for our substantial investment in extending our distribution network”.

English translation by Giles Watson

www.watson.it

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Italy: Indian Burns Victim on Road to Recovery

Rome, 25 Sept. (AKI) — An Indian immigrant who nearly died after being set on fire by a gang of youths in Italy early this year has made a remarkable recovery and begun to walk again. Navtej Singh Sidhu, an unemployed labourer, suffered burns to 40 percent of his body in the savage attack that occurred at a railway station in Nettuno, south of Rome.

“The pain was indescribable. I was in shock. I couldn’t even cry out,” he told Adnkronos International (AKI) as he recalled the pain in Rome.

Three young men allegedly attacked Sidhu, doused him with petrol and set him alight in the early hours of the morning on 1 February. The three youths are now on trial for attempted murder.

Sidhu was taken to Rome’s Saint Eugenio Hospital and has undergone 10 painful skin graft operations, mainly on his feet and legs, which were burned to the bone.

The 35-year-old has also suffered serious depression in hospital, where doctors say he will have to undergo further surgery to his lower legs to reconstruct major tissue and muscles, as well as skin, flesh and bone.

“Sometimes, I am depressed, due to the pain in my legs and feet that even small movements cause me,” Sidhu said.

“And I have circulation problems due to being immobile for much of time, especially at night.”

Sidhu is now undergoing intensive physiotherapy at the hospital’s burns unit and for the past month has begun to walk short distances without crutches after being bed-ridden for months.

He said it is too early to decide whether he will remain in Italy or return his home in the northern state of Punjab where his family lives.

“Will I stay in Italy or return to India? I don’t know — my legs are in such a bad way that I don’t know what to do,” Sidhu said.

A Sikh from a small village in Punjab’s Moga district, Sidhu sold all his possessions to come to Italy in 2002 in search of new opportunities.

He worked as a building and agricultural labourer before losing his job and became homeless after his work permit expired.

Many people in Italy were outraged by the barbarity of the attack against Sidhu, but it was not an isolated incident. Xenophobic and racist attacks against immigrants have been on the rise in recent years.

The three Italian youths who are are currently on trial for Sidhu’s attempted murder, had allegedly drunk alcohol and taken drugs before the attack.

The young men told police after their arrest they had not singled out Sidhu because he was an immigrant but because he was “a bum who we wanted to teach a lesson”.

But immigrants living in the Nettuno area told AKI that only immigrants sleep at the station and they are sure the attack was racially motivated.

Sidhu said he was looking for justice and the three youths charged with the attack would be punished with jail terms.

A leading Italian surgeon, Gaetano Esposito, who has operated on Sidhu many times, said he was shocked at the severity of the attack and that the Indian labourer had made staggering progress.

“It’s completely unpredictable what will happen. But physiotherapy can work miracles: for example, Singh is able to stand and walk without a stick, even though he’s lost his Achilles tendons,” Esposito told AKI.

Esposito said that Sidhu would never be able to work as a manual labourer again. But in the coming months he hoped that Italian authorities would keep their promises to help Sidhu when he is ready to leave the hospital that has become his second home.

The president of the Italian Senate, Renato Schifani, and Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, both visited Sidhu in hospital earlier this year and pledged to give him a job and accommodation.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Italy: Filipinos Held Over 116 Billion Dollars of Bogus US Bonds

Italian police said on Friday they had arrested two Philippine members of a religious order on suspicion of trying to fraudulently sell 116 billion dollars worth of fake US bonds.

The brother and sister were detained after police discovered bogus bonds dated 1934 worth 103 billion dollars in a package addressed to the pair passing through Milan’s Malpensa airport last month.

“It wasn’t hard to see that they were fake,” said Lieutenant Colonel Emilio Fiora of the Italian financial police.

The brother remains in custody but the sister has been released as police said there was insufficient evidence to charge her.

It is the second time Italian authorities have seized a huge haul of fake US Treasury securities in recent months and they said the cases could be linked.

Police detained the two Filipinos, members of a Pentecostalist religious order in the northern city of Genoa, at the end of August.

More fake securities with a value of 13 billion dollars were discovered when police carried out a search as they arrested the pair.

With the bonds found in the airport package, this made a total of 116 billion dollars (79 billion euros) of bogus Treasury securities.

The brother and sister planned to “exchange these securities fraudulently for money, probably in the United States,” Fiora added.

Authorities disclosed details of the case after receiving confirmation from the United States that the bonds were fake, Lieutenant Colonel Antonello Urgeghe of the financial police added.

The latest seizure came after Italian authorities in June arrested two Japanese men trying to enter Italy from Switzerland carrying 134 billion dollars worth of bogus American bonds.

Lieutenant Colonel Fiora said there could be a connection between the two cases, adding that the bonds “could have been printed in the same place”.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: In Crime, Women Are ‘More Dangerous’ Than Men

Antillean men are overrepresented in Dutch crime statistics, but it is their mothers and wives who keep crime going, says professor Marion van San.

The wives of Antillean drug criminals are often accomplices in their husbands’ crimes. In many cases these women also raise their sons to be drug criminals, which keeps the cycle of crime going.

This is the conclusion reached by Marion van San as she prepares to take up her position as professor of youth and education of Antilleans at the University of Utrecht. The chair is financed by the municipalities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, two cities where Antilleans are overrepresented in crime statistics.

Van San’s inaugural lecture, The appeal of ‘dangerous’ men, which is scheduled for next Monday, is an almost romantic account of the appeal of criminal men to certain women.

Van San compares women from the former Dutch colony Curaçao, whom she spent fifteen years researching, with the wives and mistresses of famous mafia figures. She sees an important parallel: both groups are irresistibly attracted to criminals and many get involved in crime via their husbands.

Why are these women so attracted to dangerous men?

“These men offer them a better life. If you read the biographies of the women, mistresses and wives of the mafia figures, almost all of them grew up in poverty. And they all love nice cars, expensive clothing, jewels and luxury. These men can offer them that. It is the same with the women in Curaçao. The nature and seriousness of the crime committed by Antillean drug criminals cannot be compared to that of the mafia. But these men too can offer women a better life financially.”

Is it only about the money?

“It is also about status. About power. At the side of their husband or boyfriend they go from being a poor wretch to a woman of stature. And it is also about love and passion. In the biographies of the mafia wives you read that they feel uncontrollably drawn to these men. They are macho, they emanate danger: don’t kid around with me.”

Don’t the men tend to keep their women as far away as possible from the crime?

“There is definitely that impression. In the Cosa Nostra, for example, the men swear before joining the organisation that they will never tell their wives about the business that takes place. Women take care of their husbands and the family and don’t need to know anything further. At first glance that seems to be the same for Curaçao women. Both women in the mafia and the wives of Antillean men who operate in the drug economy would prefer to be seen as innocent mother figures who are only there to serve their husband and family. But that impression is mainly created and kept alive by men. It is not accurate. The women often support their husband from home in his criminal practices. They hide weapons or fugitive friends, that kind of thing.”

They do odd jobs?

“Yes, but these women have also become more active outside the home. In the 1990s Curaçao women started smuggling drugs themselves. They were also recruited for this, as women they were less conspicuous. They did not undergo any emancipation process like the mafia women. These Curaçao women are among the subclass, without money or education. For them this is their only chance of some prosperity. But the women make an even more important contribution to crime. They keep the dynasty going.”

What do you mean?

“The women often raise their sons to be dangerous men. It is the mothers who shape them, who teach them values and standards. I saw it when I was researching poor Curaçao women. They taught their children to always defend themselves against enemies, if necessary with violence. This is what they had always done themselves. So they prepare their children for a life in crime.”

Why would they do that?

“A criminal son is attractive for the simple reason that he brings in money.”

Do they say: go out and steal?

“No, they do not deliberately encourage their sons to go into crime, but they often turn a blind eye. They don’t say anything if the son comes home with expensive things even though he is not working. If he drives around in an expensive car without having a steady income. And they say nothing if he slips them money. And these young men are in turn attractive to young women. The vicious circle is complete.”

How can you break this cycle?

“Girls have to be closely coached to get their own income via education and work. Preferably work with some status, like in healthcare. Criminal men are less attractive to them then. Antillean mothers must be supported in raising children so that they do not raise their sons to be dangerous men. They are responsible for an important part of the problem, but also the solution.”

Most projects now focus on the young men involved in crime.

“Exactly. They are also often temporary, without coherence or structure. The only solution is a robust, intensive and structural programme that focuses on Antillean girls and women. That is expensive of course, but ultimately it will pay for itself. Because you don’t want to know how much this crime is costing us.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Poland Can’t Issue More Polluting Permits Despite Court Win: EU

BRUSSELS — The European Commission hit back Thursday in a legal battle over heavy industry pollution, saying Poland and Estonia cannot issue extra carbon permits despite a court victory the previous day.

A top European court on Wednesday annulled an EU attempt to limit the amount of greenhouse gases that Estonia and Poland can let heavy industry emit.

That decision sets a precedent that could see other countries seek to raise their emission caps and upset the EU’s emissions trading scheme. a key plank in Europe’s plans for tackling climate change.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas issued a statement Thursday seeking to put a lid on events by preventing Warsaw and Tallinn from issuing extra carbon permits to their industries.

“The EU ETS is of central importance for combating climate change,” he said.

While acknowledging that the court ruling required the EU’s executive arm to re-evaluate its decision on Poland and Estonia he stressed that “those countries are not allowed to issue any additional allowances beyond those created in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme” until this was done.

He also suggested that such a reevaluation was unlikely to lead to any major change in carbon allowances handed out.

“The actual 2008 emissions in Estonia and Poland correspond closely to those anticipated in the Commission Decisions,” he said.

Italy has became the latest EU nation to get involved, with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sending a letter to EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso seeking to renegotiate the caps on his country’s carbon dioxide emissions.

“I’m well aware of that,” and EU Commission spokesman said “the CO2 limits are set and are normally non negotiable.”

Six other EU countries — Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania — are pursing a similar appeal to Poland and will be encouraged by Wednesday court ruling.

The National Allocation Plans (NAPS) are a major part of EU policy for fighting global warming. Under them, governments fixed the total number of allowances they would allocate to industry for the 2008-2012 period, part of efforts to meet emission targets.

These pollution permits are granted to around 10,000 installations in the 27-nation bloc’s energy and industrial sectors which combined account for about half the EU’s emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.

The commission then assesses the plans to see whether they are compatible with EU guidelines.

The court ruled, that in the cases of Estonia and Poland, the commission had overstepped its authority by rejecting the plans based only on doubts it had about how the countries collected their data.

Brussels is examining the courts judgment and “considering whether to appeal,” Dimas said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Polish Bloggers Urge No Vote

A group of Polish political bloggers have made an appeal to Irish people to vote No to the Lisbon Treaty.

Bloggers from political website Niepoprawni.pl have contacted The Irish Times urging Irish people to vote No. The group is against the Lisbon Treaty because, it says, the EU is trying to pass the treaty without asking Europeans to vote on it. “Ireland is an exception. In the second referendum Irish people will speak for all the European countries.”

The arguments include claims that the treaty is an attempt to establish a European superstate.

France and Netherlands voted no to the European Constitution which, the group says, was changed little before it later became the Lisbon Treaty.

The group said the 2008 Irish No vote on Lisbon had been disregarded, which was “an obvious violation of all democratic principles”.

Higgins and De Rossa battle for Google staff

An audience of 300 people gathered at Google headquarters in Dublin yesterday to hear two left-wing MEPs debate the treaty. Socialist Joe Higgins urged a No vote, while Labour’s Proinsias De Rossa argued for a Yes.

Most Google employees seemed well disposed to a Yes vote. Some made up their minds during the debate.

Niamh Nolan (23), from Kilkenny, said she had been undecided before the debate, but would now “definitely vote Yes”.

However, Marissa Selman (31), from Limerick, said the debate had swayed her “towards the No side”.

“I thought there was much more definite information from Joe. He seemed to pay attention better to answering the questions.”

[Return to headlines]


Sweden: Björklund Against Burka Ban

Education Minister Jan Björklund says he doesn’t want to legislate against the use of headscarves, niqab, and burkas in Swedish schools.

Teachers unions have called for common rules for teachers and teaching students working in the Swedish education system, as it is currently up to each school to decide, which can sometimes cause conflict with students and teachers.

In a recent case a niqab-wearing teaching student was told that she couldn’t wear the face-covering head scarf by a school she was going to work in.

Björklund says that he doesn’t want to regulate schools ad infinitum, claiming that “one day teachers say there are too many regulations, the next they say there aren’t enough”. He says that headmasters should ban them if they think it affects teaching, and to simply allow them if they don’t.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Swiss Parliament Votes for Stricter Integration

Poorly integrated foreigners could have their residence permits revoked and even face deportation.

The Senate on Wednesday followed the House of Representatives in approving a proposal by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, despite opposition by the centre-left.

A second motion imposing stricter pre-conditions for naturalisation applicants was also passed. Successful candidates must demonstrate a good level of integration and have a good knowledge of one of the four national languages, it said.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf pointed out that the law on naturalisation was already in the process of being modified by her ministry, independently of the current parliamentary moves.

She said integration and language skills would be the central focus of the amended law, rendering the latest motions superfluous.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


UK: Foreign Office Chief Faces Sack After ‘Anti-Semitic’ Rant Verdict

A senior civil servant is facing the sack after being found guilty yesterday of shouting that Israelis should be “blown off the f***ing earth” while exercising in a gym.

Rowan Laxton, 48, head of the South Asia desk of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, was watching a television report about the death of a farmer killed by Israeli bombs when he exclaimed: “F***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews”.

Fellow gym members Gideon Falter and William Lemaine, who were on a lower floor using weights, overheard Laxton, who was on an exercise bike, and complained to staff at the gym.

The incident, which took place at the London Business School gym in January, was described by Laxton’s counsel as a “moment of madness”.

Julian Knowles said: “It is a cliché, but it’s a cliché that fits in this situation.

“It was a moment of madness for Mr Laxton, which is going to have very grave and long-term consequences.”

Mr Falter claimed that he also heard Laxton say: “If I had my way, the f***ing international community should be sent in, and if the Israelis got in the way, they’d be blown off the f***ing earth.”

Laxton denied saying that, however, and told Mr Falter that he was sorry if he had offended him.

Laxton previously told the court that he was embarrassed by what happened and was aware he had embarrassed the Foreign Office.

He said during an earlier hearing: “We are all human. I erred. I don’t normally swear.”

Laxton also said “f***ing despicable” while watching the television report and admitted that it was an “unhelpful and gratuitous comment”.

Laxton, whose salary after tax is £3,000 a month, was fined £350 at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court after District Judge Howard Riddle found him guilty of racially aggravated harassment, a charge he had denied.

He was also ordered to pay £500 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Mr Knowles told the court that Laxton had completed divorce proceedings that morning and added: “Whatever happens in court is secondary to the effect it will have on his career and his reputation.”

The outburst was not premeditated, Mr Knowles said, adding: “It was extraordinarily out of character for Mr Laxton. He used utterly debase comments, but he is not an anti-Semite.”

In a written judgment, District Riddle said that Laxton had been under stress on the day and may have been oblivious to others around him.

He said: “This was not a legitimate protest — it was an emotional reaction.

“It is hard to imagine the circumstances when saying ‘f***ing Jews’ in a gym used by other people and overheard by two strangers 20 feet away could be considered reasonable.”

Speaking outside court, Mr Knowles said: “Mr Laxton is very disappointed by the outcome of today and he will be considering his next steps with his legal team.”

Laxton was suspended from his job earlier this year and could now face the sack. A misconduct hearing is likely to start this week.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “The FCO takes very seriously any suggestion of inappropriate behaviour by its staff.

“The case will now be considered under the FCO’s misconduct procedure. This is an internal matter and it would therefore be wrong to comment further.”

[Return to headlines]


UK: General Quits ‘Over Afghanistan’

An army general who is reported to have criticised aspects of the war in Afghanistan has resigned.

Reports said Maj Gen Andrew Mackay, General Officer Commanding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England, was unhappy about strategy.

Prince Harry spent 10 weeks from December 2007 in Afghanistan under the command of Maj Gen Mackay.

The Ministry of Defence has insisted that the general’s departure was a “personal matter”.

Maj Gen Mackay’s operational tour to Afghanistan was notable for the re-capture of Musa Qaleh, a strategic town, from the Taliban.

He was subsequently awarded a CBE for his role in the mission.

Maj Gen Mackay’s resignation comes as the Daily Telegraph reported that a mole who leaked details of MPs’ expenses said he was partly motivated by anger at inadequate equipment for UK troops.

‘Serious blow’

Maj Nick Haston, who was Maj Gen Mackay’s deputy chief of staff, resigned from the Army earlier this year in protest at policy and equipment shortages.

Maj Haston told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that he was “very shocked and surprised” at the news of his superior’s resignation.

“I’d be assuming that frustration… over issues in Afghanistan would be part of the issue. I would be guessing, but I would assume there’d also be other issues such as the general funding problems in the military just now.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


UK: MPs’ Expenses Leaked Over Failure to Equip Troops on Front Line in Afghanistan and Iraq

Expenses claims made by MPs were leaked because of anger over the Government’s failure to equip the Armed Forces properly while politicians lavished taxpayers’ money on themselves, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Workers who processed the MPs’ claims included serving soldiers, who were moonlighting between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan to earn extra cash for body armour and other vital equipment.

The soldiers were furious when they saw what MPs, including the Prime Minister, were claiming for and their anger convinced one of their civilian colleagues that taxpayers had a right to know how their money was being spent.

The mole who leaked the data has told his story for the first time, in the hope that it will shame the Government into finally supplying the right equipment for the thousands of soldiers risking their lives in Afghanistan.

His account appears in No Expenses Spared, a book which is published today and discloses the full story of what Gordon Brown described as “the biggest Parliamentary scandal for two centuries”.

Five months after The Daily Telegraph broke the story of MPs’ expenses, the mole angrily denounced politicians who “still don’t get it” and were still preoccupied with their own financial situation rather than the plight of troops.

“It’s not easy to watch footage on the television news of a coffin draped in a Union Jack and then come in to work the next day and see on your computer screen what MPs are taking for themselves,” he said.

“Hearing from the serving soldiers, about how they were having to work there to earn enough money to buy themselves decent equipment, while the MPs could find public money to buy themselves all sorts of extravagances, only added to the feeling that the public should know what was going on.

“That helped tip the balance in the decision over whether I should or should not leak the expenses data.”

The Daily Telegraph’s investigation of MPs’ expense claims exposed widespread abuse of the Parliamentary allowance system, including the “flipping” of second homes, systematic tax avoidance, “phantom” mortgages and claims for fripperies such as moat cleaning, manure and a duck house. Some MPs even attempted to claim for wreaths which they laid at remembrance ceremonies.

No Expenses Spared, written by two members of the Telegraph’s investigation team, describes how employees at The Stationery Office, where the expense files were sent for censorship before their intended publication by Parliament, reacted when they first saw the claims for second homes, furniture and luxury goods.

The workers, who included Parliamentary staff on secondment, became so agitated that they had to be told to calm down by managers.

One of the expenses that particularly enraged staff was Gordon Brown’s claim for a Sky TV sports package, which cost £36 per month.

But it was the position of the soldiers, who had used their annual leave to find temporary work as security guards, that caused the most outrage. “As the days progressed the soldiers joined in the conversations and became as angry as those doing the editing,” the mole said.

“When they’re out in Afghanistan they’re out there for Queen and country, earning £16,000 or £17,000 a year, knowing they’re going to take losses, while the MPs are sitting in Parliament on £65,000, with massive expenses, and meanwhile you’ve got bodies coming home.”

The Prime Minister, who faces a critical test of his leadership at next week’s Labour Party conference, has faced repeated criticism over the equipment that has been issued to troops and for his lacklustre handling of the expenses scandal.

No Expenses Spared discloses that the mole was employed to censor MPs’ expenses paperwork in 2008 before it was published this year.

Around 20 people at a time worked on blacking out parts of the files. The soldiers were among the security guards who were there to prevent any of the information being leaked.

One of the soldiers had taken on the temporary work, in contravention of Army regulations, to earn enough money to buy a lightweight Kevlar ballistic vest similar to those issued to US troops. Many British soldiers have complained that the standard issue body armour was so heavy and bulky that it was more of a hindrance than a help in a firefight.

Another soldier was there to earn money to buy desert boots, gloves and sunglasses, while other servicemen were earning to buy Christmas presents for their families.

The mole said: “The people who were working on redacting the MPs’ expenses were people who were proud to be British, and they were saddened by what they saw.

“Everyone in that room was of the same mind. This was our money and these were our employees, effectively, but no one could hold them to account.

“Pretty much everyone working in that room was being paid a pittance to do their job. Meanwhile the MPs were being well paid and claiming a fortune on their expenses, yet what have they done for us in the last 10 years?

“That was why I leaked the information: because the British public deserves better.”

The furore over the leak of the expenses data has put the mole under intense pressure and he faced the threat of a police investigation. He wishes to remain anonymous.

The mole leaked the MPs’ expenses data, which amounted to more than 1.5 million individual receipts, to John Wick, a former SAS officer who acted as a middle man in negotiations with The Daily Telegraph.

The mole told the book’s authors that he was “bloody glad” he released the information. “There’s no two ways about it. I saw what was happening. I saw that information, and you just couldn’t keep that from people,” he said.

“Now that The Daily Telegraph has put this in the public domain, it has to bring about reform.”

But the mole said he had been disappointed with the response of MPs so far.

“Do they get it? I don’t know. We had a knee-jerk reaction from all the parties initially… [But now] when you listen to MPs I think they are more concerned about themselves and keeping their jobs than getting on with reform and changing our Parliament.

“Do you think Alan Duncan gets it? I don’t know. I listen to various statements made by MPs and I’m not so sure they do get it at all yet.

“I know certain members do and I know that not all MPs were guilty. Not all MPs had their snouts in the trough. Nevertheless they all knew what was happening. Those that didn’t have their snouts in the trough did nothing to stop it.”

Despite public anger over their expenses, MPs have continued to claim thousands of pounds for food, mortgages and other costs.

Within the next month, Sir Christopher Kelly, the official standards watchdog, is expected to recommend radical changes to the Parliamentary expenses system. However, MPs are pushing for large pay rises to compensate for any loss of the lucrative expenses. They can currently claim more than £24,000 a year towards the cost of a second home.

Meanwhile, the Government has refused to bow to soldiers’ demands for better equipment similar to that given to American troops.

The disclosure of such a direct link between the summer’s scandal and the ongoing row over military equipment will put ministers under increasing pressure to ensure that soldiers are properly equipped before sending them into battle. Dozens of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have been blamed on inferior or faulty equipment issued to the Armed Forces.

Last weekend, the widow of Sjt Paul McAleese, who was killed on August 20 by a Taliban bomb, suggested that the Government’s failure properly to equip soldiers was akin to manslaughter.

Sjt McAleese had spent £1,000 of his own money to buy a lightweight ballistic vest, desert boots and ballistic goggles, the same equipment as that wanted by the soldiers who worked at The Stationery Office.

Jo McAleese said: “We must either give our soldiers the kit they need to survive or get them out of there.”

Last night, the Ministry of Defence insisted that the Armed Forces were properly equipped.

A spokesman said: “Our top priority is to provide the best equipment and training for our people in Afghanistan.

“Both are excellent, and are improving all the time. Commanders now have a variety of helicopters, protected patrol vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles and other key equipment at their disposal, and we are committed to ensuring that their needs are met, both in the short and long term.

“Since 2006, we have delivered equipment valued at more than £10 billion to the Armed Forces, including over £4 billion on urgent operational requirements since 2006.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Miliband Accused Over Iran Exiles

A Labour peer has accused Foreign Secretary David Miliband of maintaining “a shameful silence” on attacks on Iranian dissidents at a camp in Iraq.

British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom chairman Lord Corbett hit out in a strongly-worded open letter.

More than 3,000 people live in the Camp Ashraf, and supporters say several died in a raid by Iraqi security forces.

The Foreign Office says officials will visit the camp soon and have written to Iraq’s government over the matter.

Those at the camp, which was previously under US control, are members of an exiled Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran (PMOI).

Their relatives and friends have been demonstrating outside the US Embassy in London for 60 days. Several are on hunger strike.

Their case has won the backing of senior Church of England clergy, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.

Lord Corbett wrote: “At Labour’s conference you will rightly join the chorus of condemnation at Iran’s menacing nuclear deception.

“Then, why your shameful silence over the vicious assault Iran orchestrated Iraq to make two months ago on 3,500 Iranian dissidents at Camp Ashraf?”

He described it as “a brutal assault on refugees who offered no more than passive resistance against ‘security forces’ armed with hand-held chains, axes, iron bars and wooden clubs embedded with nails as well as live ammunition”.

Lord Corbett claimed this raid, on 28 July, had left 11 dead and more than 500 injured.

“Some 36 were arrested and remain detained despite court orders for their release. Is this the kind of democracy for which our government sent troops to die and be injured?”

He said the UK had a responsibility to help ensure the safety and security of the refugees and called on Mr Miliband to try to ensure a UN monitoring force could go to the camp. camp.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Balkans

Macedonia: Ethnic Albanian ‘Encylopedia’ Withdrawn

Skopje, 24 Sept. (AKI) — Macedonia’s academy of arts and sciences has blocked the distribution of a newly published encyclopedia which sparked a storm of protest because of references to minority ethnic Albanians, local media reported on Thursday.

The encyclopedia — the first since Macedonia became independent in 1992 — referred to ethnic Albanians using the pejorative terms ‘Shiptars’ and ‘mountaineers’.

The academy was quoted as saying 50 copies of the country’s first encyclopedia had so far been distributed.

All further distribution will be stopped until controversial references “allegedly insulting to the ethnic Albanian community” are re-examined, it said.

In addition, the encyclopedia said that members of American and British intelligence services had helped train the so-called ‘People’s Liberation Army’ (ONA) which led to the 2001 armed rebellion demanding more autonomy and human rights for ethnic Albanians.

The rebellion ended with the Ohrid peace accord in 2001, which granted ethnic Albanians regional autonomy and declared Albanian as the second official language in the country.

Ethnic Albanians account for about 25 per cent of Macedonia’s two million people and an ethnic Albanian party (DUI) is a junior coalition partner in prime minister Nikola Gruevski’s government.

The US and British embassies in Skopje sharply condemned some references in the encyclopedia, denying their countries’ involvement in training ONA rebels.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Bloggers Sound Out on Hosni’s UNESCO Bid

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Contrast this to all the other articles in the media blaming the Jews]

CAIRO: “Prayers are mandatory today for all — Christian, Muslim or Bahai: Pray that God lets the Bulgarians win and strengthens them in the UNESCO elections” — was the message sent out Tuesday on Twitter by Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas as the race for UNESCO director general entered its final phase.

The face-off between Bulgarian Irina Bolkova and Egypt’s incumbent Culture Minister Farouk Hosni saw bloggers and Twitter users in the Egyptian blogosphere almost unanimously rejecting Hosni’s bid for UNESCO’s top post.

While international opposition to Hosni’s bid has largely centered around his comment that he would “burn any Israeli books” which appeared in the Library of Alexandria, opposition within Egypt broadly speaking has two aspects. First and foremost is his association with a regime which has consistently been accused of violating freedom of opinion and artistic expression in general. Secondly is his contribution — or failure to prevent — the deterioration of Egypt’s cultural life and heritage.

Hosni — a stalwart of Mubarak’s regime who has served in his current position for 22 years — has responded to allegations of anti-Semitism in both the international press and on his recently launched website (wwws.faroukhosny.com).

In a slightly garbled “message to the world” on his website Hosni claims responsibility for his statements but appeals “to all those who are attacking me not to fall into the trap of confusion.”

“To them I say, look at my life, personality and contributions to the dialogue of cultures and faiths and to the promotion of mutual understanding among people without discrimination.

“Do not look at one sentence. Review 27 years spent in the service of culture and make an assessment of what I did in the service of humanity, creativity, writers and books.

“I opened many libraries in poor villages in my country and contributed to the revival of the Alexandria Library. Who can believe in superstitious matters that would make of me an organizer of execution by burning?”

Hosni writes on his website that UNESCO should “relentlessly defend freedom of belief, freedom of thought, freedom of expression as well as independent information media [sic], [and] the right to obtain information…”

He has not, however, responded to the charges brought domestically that the stifling of all forms of expression and the stagnation of culture under his tenure disqualify him from running for the UNESCO post.

On the blogsphere

For Abbas, Hosni’s election as UNESCO chief equates to “fresh recognition of, and international support for, Mubarak’s criminal regime.”

“His winning is a rejection of our freedom as Egyptians,” Abbas continues on Twitter.

Ursula Lindsay writing at the Arabist agrees, saying that Hosni shouldn’t be elected “not because of his disrespect for Israeli culture—but because of his much deeper, more damaging disrespect of Egyptian culture.”

She continues, writing that Hosni shouldn’t win his UNESCO bid “mostly because he is the longest-serving minister (22 years) in an autocratic state that does not respect freedom of expression; because he presides over a corrupt and mediocre ministry and has acted in the interest of the regime rather than the interests of culture time and again; because he is generally loathed by Egyptian artists and writers of any standing.”

Blogger Zeinobia writing at Egyptian Chronicles says of Hosni that “Egyptian culture was humiliated for two decades by the hands of this man.”

“I do not need to speak about the corruption in the ministry but I will speak and say that it is enough in his time whole temples were stolen completely, our monuments from ancient times were being stolen from our museums and nobody cared,” she said.

Zeinobia makes reference to the Beni Suef theater fire in September 2005 which killed 48 people unable to escape the flames because the theatre’s only exit was blocked.

While Hosni submitted his resignation during the intense criticism he received in the wake of the fire, it was rejected by the Egyptian Prime Minister.

Blogger Nora Younis meanwhile hopes that Hosni doesn’t win “only because NDP is pushing Mohamed Kamal (Gamal [Mubarak]’s office manager) to [the] Culture Minister seat.”

Zeinobia says of Kamal’s holding the post “it will be a very strong sign that Gamal Mubarak is accelerating … his inheritance plan.”

One of the few bloggers who have not rejected Hosni’s candidature outright is Nawara Negm writing at tahyyes.org

“That’s it, he’s Egypt’s candidate, like the national football team. I can’t stand against him,” Negm writes. She adds however that “at least this way we’ll be rid of him, and nobody will die in a fire again God willing — and our antiquities will have a bit of a break. And maybe his replacement will show more concern for our Islamic antiquities.”

At least some of Egypt’s antiquities are being looked after, according to blogger Mostafa Hussein — but not as you might expect.

In a post entitled “NDP Synagogue” Hussein presents photos of the Maghen Abraham Synagogue in Cairo’s Hadayeq El-Qobba which has been turned into an office of the ruling National Democratic Party.

“Yes, it is ‘the most looked after’ synagogue as in the wooden floors are in a horrible shape, cables coming and going everywhere, horrible neon lights, overstuffed filing cabinets piled over each other, rusting, broken window panes replaced with cardboard and the whole sanctity of the place, that was once there and can be vaguely felt radiating from the large dome and the star of David windows, is replaced with a grim dark grey government office [Mogamaa] feel.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Egypt Suspicious of European Language Students

Many deeply religious students from Europe come to Egypt to learn Arabic. The question is: are these European Salafists coming to study the language of the Koran or to prepare terrorist attacks?

Young men with downy beards, caps, kneelength galabeyas and sandals sat chatting in a MacDonald’s restaurant in Nasr City, a large middle class district in the eastern part of Cairo. Women wearing concealing black garments and veils over their faces scurried around the small dusty streets between their apartments and the neighbourhood shops. They were not from here and they barely spoke any Arabic. Asking around revealed that every one of them came from Europe and most of them have North African roots.

Amidst the neighbourhood Egyptians, the European Salafists — Sunni religious fundamentalists — are outsiders. Ashraf (26), a Dutchman of Moroccan descent, came to Cairo a year ago. “To learn Arabic,” he said, “the language of my religion.” He had just visited the mosque, where many kindred spirits go to pray five times a day. A not-so-secret agent of the security service stood outside the mosque. The house of prayer is under surveillance. “We aren’t hurting anyone,” said Ashraf, whose apartment was recently searched. “We only come to study and pray.”

Arabic language schools in Nasr City are doing good business. Young Salafists from Europe come to Egypt in great numbers to learn the language of the Koran, the holy book that Salafists believe can only be understood in the original language in which it was divinely revealed to the prophet Mohammed. In addition to language lessons, they usually follow courses in Islamic law offered by teachers ranging from the renowned Al-Azhar University to clandestine imams without permits.

Looking for trouble

“Religious fanatics want to be taken seriously,” said Walid al-Gohari, founder and director of the Al-Fajr institute, one of the many language schools in Nasr City. “But Salafists who don’t even know Arabic are not considered credible.” Al-Fajr is popular among import Salafists and Al-Gohari acknowledged that some come to Egypt with bad intentions. “Most students are mainly centred on themselves and their faith, but some come here with firm opinions about Islam and call anyone who sees it differently an infidel,” the director said. “We try to teach them the language so they learn to understand the true message of the Koran, but they often look for trouble. They get in with a bad crowd, visit the wrong mosque and listen to the wrong sheik.”

The Egyptian security service is concerned about the situation. It therefore keeps a close eye on fundamentalist visitors with a European passport. Students said their homes are regularly searched and they are randomly taken in for questioning. “They ask stupid questions, like how often do I pray each day,” Ashraf described his brief time in custody. “As if you are an extremist if you do what Allah has ordered.”

The fact that the students are a source of concern became clear before US president Barack Obama’s visit to Cairo at the beginning of June. As a precaution, the security service picked up hundreds of foreign students in a few days’ time, among them a few from the Netherlands. Although most were released soon after, dozens were deported. Those who remained have really had a fright. “Some have shaved off their beards so as not to stand out,” said Ashraf. Others have left the country out of fear.

Jihadist intentions

The Egyptian authorities claim there are dangerous individuals with jihadist intentions among the European students. A number of students from France, Belgium and the United Kingdom for instance are suspected of involvement in a bomb attack in Cairo in February which killed a French tourist. The chief suspects — Dodi Hoxha, a French woman of Albanian descent, and Farouk Taher Ibn Abbas, a Belgian of Tunisian origin — have been subjected to heavy-handed interrogation since April, a diplomatic source reported on condition of remaining anonymous. Both studied at Al-Fajr, director Al-Gohari confirmed when asked.

The Belgian chief suspect reportedly confessed that he had been ordered to return to Belgium to prepare a bomb attack in Paris. Questions from this reporter about evidence were not answered. But an informal source in the Egyptian public prosecution department said the suspects had travelled from Egypt to the Gaza strip and became involved with extremist groups there.

It is not the first time the Egyptian security service claimed to have rounded up a cell of jihadist European students. Three years ago, nine French people, two Belgians and a Dutch person, all of North African origin, were picked up. They were allegedly recruiting suicide commandos in Egypt for the war in Iraq. After just over a week of questioning they were deported. There was no evidence. Back in Europe authorities saw no reason to hold the students.

Creating an enemy

Al-Gohari was not at all surprised. He said the Egyptian security service often keeps surveillance on specific foreign students at the request of European secret services. “I know it for certain, because an agent himself told me.” He sees a paradox in this. “The West often accuses Egypt of being a breeding ground for fanatics, but in actuality we are getting extremists from Europe.”

The director did not see it as a problem that language institutes like Al-Fajr are thought to provide intelligence. “We coordinate everything with the security service. It is for a good cause.” But he believed the Egyptian security service’s hard-line approach makes the problem worse than it actually is. “Agents treat the foreign students who are arrested terribly.” He said this has an adverse effect. “This way you create an enemy you might not have had before.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al Ahram Compiles a List of Failed Arab States

Al Ahram Weekly 10.09.2009 (Egypt)

With an eye on Yemen, Sudan, Palestine and even Egypt, Khalil El-Anani asks why Arab states are not more successful. He lists three contributing factors: “The first is the declining credibility of the Arab nation state due to political incompetence, economic corruption, social injustice, the failure to achieve domestic cohesion and to embrace religious and sectarian minorities, and the inability to meet the growing demands and aspirations of certain segments of society, notably young people. The second is the growing tendency on the part of the Arab state towards exclusiveness and an ever tighter monopoly on power, expressed daily in the form of police repression and tighter social surveillance and the natural reaction to which is social and sectarian discontent and rebelliousness.(…) The third factor is outside forces eager to exploit internal tensions to strengthen their influence in Arab society and whose success in such designs is contingent upon the existence of the foregoing conditions.”

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Exclusive Interview: Gaddafi on Obama, Israel and Iran

Given your experience in dealing what the United States offered in return for giving up your [nuclear] program, what advice would you give to a country like Iran? And what advice would you give to the United States in dealing with Iran’s nuclear ambitions? America has the responsibility to reward and encourage such countries who take such decisions, so that they will be able to use nuclear energy or nuclear power in peaceful means. (Watch the video of TIME’s interview with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.)

Upon the advice of our American friends, and others, when they told us to maybe get in touch with Pyongyang and Iran, and encourage them and talk to them so that they would not go to the use of nuclear energy for military purposes, divert the potentials of the capability they have for peaceful means, the actions or the answers from those such countries was, What did Libya gain in the trade?

Are you saying that Iranians and North Koreans don’t think that Libya got enough benefits for giving up its program? Indeed that’s what they said to us. Indeed.

Libya spoke to both the Iranians and the North Koreans on this topic? Yes, indeed. Of course, I mean we have conveyed to them the wish of the friends, that they got in touch with us, mainly in the interest, the wish that they would take the peaceful road.

You’re chairman of the African Union at the moment. You referred to President Obama in your speech yesterday as the “son of Africa.” Do you feel a kinship with President Obama? And what would you like the United States to do in Africa? Indeed this kinship is there, is existing.

Regarding the second part of the question, Africa, I mean there are good intentions, legitimately speaking, particularly with international governing toward Africa — some sort of sympathy.

In the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people you have advocated a one-state solution. Many people criticize that kind of idea as something that would lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state, a homeland for the Jews. Do you believe that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state? I am keen and anxious for the safety of both the Jews and the Palestinians.

The position that we are in, the road that the world is going on, would lead to the destruction of the Jews. Because generally speaking, Jews as a community are limited, their number is limited, all over the world. We know that they’re not that big. Unfortunately, they were persecuted by all nations. They were persecuted by the Romans and King Edward I. And we all know the Holocaust during Hitler’s time. Once seeing the history like that we can only but sympathize with them as Jews. The Arabs actually were the ones who gave them the safe haven and the protection along all these areas when they were persecuted.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Obama, Brown, Sarkozy to Iran: ‘J’Accuse!’

This morning President Obama, French President Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will accuse Iran of building a clandestine underground nuclear fuel manufacturing plant, which Iran’s leaders have hidden from weapons inspectors, senior administration officials tell ABC News.

Yesterday at the UN Security Council, where President Obama chaired a meeting where a de-nuclearization resolution passed unanimously, all three leaders pressed the need for stronger sanctions against Iran for its nuclear weapons pursuits, but they were met with some resistance from China.

Today’s announcement is being made to press their case, along with a demand that Iran allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to see the facility, as first reported by the New York Times.

The president is expected to say that this news “increases pressure on Iran to come clean about its nuclear program,” a senior administration official tells ABC News. He will described “great and increasing doubts about the strictly peaceful nature of the program — which is what the Iranians suggest.”

Over the summer US intelligence officials, working aggressively with the French and British had been preparing a case to present to the IAEA this week about the secret underground facility, officials say. Then recently the intelligence officials had “reason to believe that the Iranians thought the secrecy of the site was no longer guaranteed, and this week Iran’s government wrote in a “vaguely worded letter to the IAEA apparently confessing to the construction of a new enrichment facility,” one official says.

IAEA spokesperson Marc Vidricaire told ABC News’ Jean Fievet that on September 21 “Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country.” The letter stated that the enrichment level would be up to 5%, and “Iran assured the Agency in the letter that ‘further complementary information will be provided in an appropriate and due time.’“

Vidricaire said that the IAEA in response “has requested Iran to provide specific information and access to the facility as soon as possible. This will allow the Agency to assess safeguards verification requirements for the facility. The Agency also understands from Iran that no nuclear material has been introduced into the facility.”

The IAEA’s chief inspector, Olli Heinonen, has been briefed on the matter by US intelligence officials.

The senior Obama administration official, asked if this would convince China of the need for stronger sanctions, said, “I don’t know. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions. Obviously this increases pressure on Iran to come to the October 1 meeting in a position to say what it’s doing and to suspend its program.”

Iranian officials are scheduled to meet on October 1 with officials from Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany to discuss Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.

The Obama administration believes Iran has now lied to inspectors three times. In addition to today’s news there were revelations in 2002 about a different clandestine plant, and news discovered in 2007 that Iran had been working to design a nuclear warhead.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]


Saudi Arabia: Beacon Shed Light on Art

BRISBANE: Leading international design studio Urban Art Projects (UAP) had completed the 60-meter-high Breakwater Beacon, the centerpiece of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), according to a press release.

The Breakwater Beacon was unveiled during the inauguration of KAUST as part of the two-day celebration. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah hosted more than 3,000 guests, including prominent Saudis, foreign leaders and Nobel laureates during the glittering inauguration ceremony.

Daniel Tobin, principal of Australia-based UAP, which creates site-specific art and design commissions for architectural and landscape environments, including the arts program for the Shanghai World Expo 2010, designed the beacon. The striking structure creates a contemporary interpretation of a lighthouse and will act as a symbol for the university.

Led by Tobin, UAP’s design draws inspiration from ancient Arabic maritime traditions, in-region artwork and architectural detailing, linking to the marine ecology of the Red Sea.

Built in pre-cast concrete blocks, Breakwater Beacon’s complex structure is a collection of unique amorphous hexagonal sections stepping up out of the Red Sea into an elliptical spire. The reverential interior space — with the patterned skin of the atrium creating a dappled shaded effect — is designed for communal gatherings and includes an amphitheater and reflection pond. Breakwater Beacon is part of a major international arts program at KAUST to celebrate its international platform of collaboration and exchange. Curated by UAP, the primary focus of the program is to interpret and present interdisciplinary art and design that stimulates creativity and interaction, drawing inspiration from KAUST’s unique geography, science and technology-based research, language, text, regional histories and traditions.

The program includes work by the renowned Tunisian artist Nja Mahdaoui and Swedish artist Carsten Holler, who is known for his Unilever installation at the Tate Modern.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: The Rules Murdering Our Troops

When enemy action kills our troops, it’s unfortu nate. When our own moral fecklessness murders those in uniform, it’s unforgivable.

In Afghanistan, our leaders are complicit in the death of each soldier, Marine or Navy corpsman who falls because politically correct rules of engagement shield our enemies.

Mission-focused, but morally oblivious, Gen. Stan McChrystal conformed to the Obama Way of War by imposing rules of engagement that could have been concocted by Code Pink:

  • Unless our troops in combat are absolutely certain that no civilians are present, they’re denied artillery or air support.
  • If any civilians appear where we meet the Taliban, our troops are to “break contact” — to retreat.

These ROE are a cave-in to the Taliban’s shameless propaganda campaign that claimed innocents were massacred every time our aircraft appeared overhead. (Afghan President Mohammed Karzai and our establishment media backed the terrorists.)

The Taliban’s goal was to level the playing field — to deny our troops their technological edge. Our enemies more than succeeded.

And what has our concern for the lives of Taliban sympathizers accomplished? The Taliban now make damned sure that civilians are present whenever they conduct an ambush or operation.

So they attack — and we quit the fight, lugging our dead and wounded back to base.

We’ve been through this b.s. before. In Iraq, we wanted to show respect to our enemies, so the generals announced early on that we wouldn’t enter mosques. The result? Hundreds of mosques became terrorist safe houses, bomb factories and weapons caches.

Why is this so hard to figure out? We tell our enemies we won’t attack X. So they exploit X. Who wouldn’t?

It isn’t just that war is hell. It’s that war must be hell, otherwise why would the enemy ever quit?

This week’s rumblings from the White House suggest that we may, at last, see a revised strategy that concentrates on killing our deadliest enemies — but I’ll believe it when I see the rounds go down-range.

Meanwhile, our troops die because our leaders are moral cowards.

Over the decades, political correctness insinuated itself into the ranks of our “Washington player” generals and admirals. We now have four-stars who believe that improving our enemies’ self-esteem is a crucial wartime goal.

And the Army published its disastrous Counterinsurgency Manual a few years back — doctrine written by military intellectuals who, instead of listening to Infantry squad leaders, made a show of consulting “peace advocates” and “humanitarian workers.”

The result was a manual based on a few heavily edited case studies “proving” that the key to success in fighting terrorists is to hand out soccer balls to worm-eaten children. The doctrine ignored the brutal lessons of 3,000 years of history — because history isn’t politically correct (it shows, relentlessly, that the only effective way to fight faith-fueled insurgents is with fire and sword).

The New York Times lavished praise on the manual. What does that tell you?

A few senior officers continue to push me to “lay off” the Counterinsurgency Manual. Sorry, but I’m more concerned about supporting the youngest private on patrol than I am with the reputation of any general.

As a real general put it a century ago, “The purpose of an Army is to fight.” And the purpose of going to war is to win (that dirty word). It’s not to sacrifice our own troops to make sad-sack do-gooders back home feel good.

We need to recognize that true morality lies in backing our troops, not in letting them die for whacko theories.

The next time you read about the death of a soldier or Marine in Afghanistan, don’t just blame the Taliban. Blame the generals and politicians who sent them to war, then took away their weapons.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Christian Medical Centre Helping Muslims and Pakistan’s Poor

The Bishop Paul Community Center was built on a plot of land owned by the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. It provides free medical care for the poor and Muslim women; making up for some of the country’s many shortcomings.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — One doctor per 900 people and one hospital bed per every thousand potential patients describe the state of health care system of Pakistan. Basic health services, especially in rural areas and among refugees, are far from meeting the population’s needs, and this comes on top of widespread poverty and an active insurgency by Islamic extremists. Getting medical treatment in Pakistan is often impossible.

The list of grim statistics does not end there. Pakistan’s defence budget last year came to US$ 3.45 billion, and is expected to reach $3.65 billion next year. Public spending in health care stood at under US$ 150 million this year. The government says it plans a 56 per cent increase next year, bringing the budget to $300 million. However, without international humanitarian agencies, Pakistan’s health care system would simply collapse.

In such a dire scenario, Christians are doing all they can do to make up for some of shortcomings.

Parishioners from the Holy Rosary Church in Faisalabad’s Madina Town were able to get their priest, Fr Bashir Francis, to use a plot of land near their Church to build a dispensary. It provides much needed medical care for residents, especially the poorest.

With the assistance of the local Caritas a three-room facility with lavatories was built, and named after the ‘Bishop Paul Community Center’ in honour Mgr Paul Andreotti, a Dominican missionary and Faisalabad bishop, who passed away in 1995.

Thanks to Caritas Pakistan, the dispensary does more than hand out drugs. Twice a month, two doctors and nurse perform free check-ups and tests as well as bring pharmaceutical supplies (Pictured).

There is also an ecumenical aspect to the initiative because it is being run in cooperation with the Care Channel International organisation, which is connected to the Evangelical Calvary Church.

The Bishop Paul Community Center is one of the few health centres open to pregnant Muslim women.

Covered in their parda so as not to show their face in the presence of men, these women know that at the centre they have access to equipment and personnel who can help them skirt around Islamic rules without breaking them.

In Pakistan, small but significant initiatives such as the one above constitute a network that links together Pakistan’s many Christian communities, helping them cope with the failures of the country’s health care system.

Another example is St. Raphael’s Hospital in Faisalabad, which is run by Franciscan nuns. The very existence of this place allowed Shahana, 35, to bring to term her pregnancy. Poor with an unemployed husband, she was going to get an abortion. Close to despair, she turned to Fr Bashir Francis who directed her to St Raphael’s where the nuns took care of her, free of charge.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Diana West: Ready, Aim, Fire McChrystal

There are many reasons to fire Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, and all of them are contained within his 66-page “assessment” of the war in Afghanistan.

The document is fascinating, just as the work of zealots is always fascinating. As a high priest of the politically correct orthodoxy, McChrystal has laid out a strategy to combat Taliban jihad in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan without once mentioning Islam, and forget about jihad (fireable offense No. 1).

he resulting black hole leads the commander to conclude, for example, that the reason the 99 percent-plus Muslim people of Afghanistan are “reluctant to align with us” is due to the “perception” — eight years and untold billions in largesse after we entered the country — “that our resolve is uncertain.” Nothing so simple as what a member of the Afghan parliament recently told the Economist: “The Taliban tell them the Koran says they have to fight the Crusaders and they believe them.”

No, it’s all our fault…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: Surakarta: People Say No to Burial of Islamic Terrorist

Tens of thousands of people do not want to see Susilo, a terrorist killed in a police raid, buried in their city. Moderate Muslim leaders back the population and condemn the political use of Islam.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations in Surakarta (central Java) because they do not want to see a terrorist named Susilo (AKA Adib) buried in their city, and this despite the fact that he was born there. Moderate Muslim leaders have used the occasion to slam terrorism as “un-Islamic”.

Susilo is one of five terrorists killed in a gun battle with police on 17 September. The notorious Noordin M Top was also killed on the occasion (see “Central Java: Five dead in a raid on terrorists, perhaps Noordin M. Top,” AsiaNews, 17 September 2009).

Susilo’s family and their neighbours would like to bury him in Pracimoloyo Cemetery in Solo (Surakarta’s colloquial name), but many other residents were outraged by the suggestion.

A group calling itself the Solo Youth Alliance covered the city in banners condemning terrorism and saying no to Susilo’s burial. The group’s coordinator, Kusumo Putro, said the slogans used, like ‘Solo united against terrorists’, express how people feel.

“We are friendly people,” he explained, “and we are against terrorism. We don’t want the people of Solo to victims of terrorist propaganda”.

However, the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam or FPI) and the Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid, headed by the extremist Abu Bakr Baasyir, have come against the Youth Alliance.

Only the large-scale deployment of police prevented bloody clashes between the two groups.

Still tens of thousands of moderate Muslims took to the streets, shouting, “Every terrorist act is against Islam and is not part of Islamic teaching.”

Representatives of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (the Indonesian Ulema Council or MUI) led the rally, which lasted for hours.

During the event, three figures spoke, Mudrick Sangidoe, a nationalist politician; Kiai Hajj Wahyudin, from Pesantren, a organisation that represents moderate Islamic educational boarding schools; and Kiai Hajj Ahmad Sukino, an important local Muslim leader.

All three warned against possible “manipulations” of the Islamic religion, and its use as a political tool, alluding to the idea of an Indonesian Islamic state, which is the goal of Muslim extremists and terrorists.

Residents of Kudus and Purbalingga, which is also in central Java, refused to allow the burial of Urwah and Aji, two other terrorists killed on 17 September.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Indonesia: Muslim Group Refuses Verdict

A conflict between a Protestant group and a Muslim group in Cinere, Depok, may continue to heat up as a local group opposing the construction of a Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church in the area objected to a recent court verdict acquitting Depok mayor’s decision to revoke the church’s building permit (IMB).

Budi Waluyo, chairman of Cinerebased Muslim Solidarity Forum (FSUM), said he was disappointed with the verdict after learning that the court did not consider the community refusal to the construction of the church to be signifi cant.

“The judges only see this case as an administrative matter. They were supposed to also consider how the church construction has triggered serious confl ict in our community,” he told The Jakarta Post.

In September last year, dozens of FSUM members raided the church’s construction site in the Bukit Cinere Indah residential complex (BCI), erecting provocative banners and posters and forcing the workers to stay away.

The organization has long claimed that the church’s construction committee used “fake” residents signatures to obtain their building permit. The group, however, could not prove that the signatures were fake.

Regulations stipulate that one can build a worship place after securing 60 approving signatures from non-Christians.

Budi, a retired army general, said he and several other FSUM leaders would soon meet Depok Mayor Nurmahmudi Ismail to discuss a plan to face the upcoming legal battle over the revocation case.

“We will advise the mayor to hire top lawyers for the next appeal.”

The HKBP church construction committee received their building permit from the administration in 1998, but left the land untouched for almost 10 years as former Depok mayor Badrul Kamal suggested the committee stop the church’s construction in May 1999, following a series of protests.

In September 2008, the committee decided to continue building the church, but stopped after FSUM members attacked its workers and sealed the construction site. After the attack, the committee sent three letters to Nurmahmudi, a former president of the Muslimbased Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), asking the mayor to facilitate a dialogue. Instead they received a permit cancellation on March 27.

The HKBP, represented by lawyer Junimart Girsang, fi led a lawsuit on May 6 to get the revocation cancelled, saying it had fulfi lled all required stipulations, including a recommendation from the government-sponsored Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB).

After running eight hearings since June, the Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN) overturned on Thursday the Depok mayor’s decision to revoke the HKBP church building permit, saying he had no legal right to cancel the permit as long as the church did not misuse it.

Depok municipality spokesman Eko Herwiyanto confi rmed that the administration would appeal the verdict at the higher court.

Junimart said his clients were prepared for another legal battle.

“Public pressure is a normal thing, but when the court has handed over its fi nal verdict, everyone is supposed to be able to accept that.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Indonesia’s Terror Burial Anger Boils Over

Solo. The suspected terrorists killed here last week continued to cause trouble on Thursday, with anger between groups of armed protesters over one of their burials nearly sparking a street battle.

Bagus Budi Pranoto, a.k.a Urwah; Ario Sudarso, a.k.a Aji; and Susilo, a.k.a Adib, were shot dead along with Southeast Asia’s most wanted terrorist, Malaysian Noordin M Top, during a raid on Susilo’s rented house in Kepuhsari near Solo, on Sept. 17.

Urwah’s family wants to bury him in their home village in Kudus, Central Java, but has this week faced strong opposition from locals there, while Aji’s family has also generated anger over their plan to bury him in his home village of Purbalingga, also in Central Java.

Susilo’s family and neighbors have prepared for him to be buried at Solo’s Pracimoloyo public cemetery.

Thursday’s stand-off came as a result of friction over posters criticizing Susilo’s burial. A group calling itself the Alliance of Solo Youth Organizations on Wednesday night put up scores of banners expressing their objections. Later that night they were pulled down by members of the Solo chapters of two radical Islamic groups — the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid, chaired by hard-line Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

Alliance supporters put up new posters on Thursday morning, and when the FPI and JAT members tried to pull them down again around noon, the rival groups swelled to about 800 people, mainly from the FPI and JAT.

The stand-off occurred on Solo’s busy main thoroughfare, Jalan Slamet Riyadi, although armed officers from the police’s elite Mobile Brigade (Brimob) unit dispersed the crowd before they clashed.

Police arrested six FPI and four JAT members for possessing weapons including rocks, sticks, knives and chains, Solo Police Chief Sr. Comr. Joko Irwanto said.

“If there is enough evidence to support the case, they will be charged with violating Article 170 of the Criminal Law on violence against people and property.”

He said the alliance had a police permit to conduct a rally and put up the banners, so removing them was criminal. “Especially because they were caught red-handed with weapons that might cause injury to others,” he said.

Alliance coordinator Kusumo Putro, said the posters, with slogans such as: “Solo United Against Terrorists,” reflected the community’s sentiments. “We don’t want the people of Solo, who are actually friendly and against terrorism, to become victims of terrorist propaganda,” he said.

Khoirul Rus Suparjo, FPI chairman in Solo, said he regretted the arrests of the group’s members, especially because it allegedly involved police violence. “Even if they had to make the arrests, there was no need to beat them.”

Sholeh Ibrahim, a JAT leader from Bashir’s Al Mukmin Islamic boarding school in nearby Ngruki, agreed, saying it had been a “peaceful rally.”

Central Java Police Chief Insp. Gen. Alex Bambang Riatmodjo said he could sympathize with the anger felt by residents. “Poor Solo. Its people are actually kind and friendly, but because of the terrorists, with the ring leader even killed here, the city’s image had been more or less besmirched,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the suburb of Kagokan, where Susilo’s parents live, residents said they had prepared a grave at a local cemetery two kilometers away.

“Even though [Susilo] turned out not to be a good citizen outside of his village, he remains remembered as a good citizen here,” said Katino, a neighborhood head.

Meanwhile, Endro Sudarsono, a lawyer representing the families of Urwah, Aji and Susilo, said representatives would collect the bodies from Jakarta on Friday.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


LTTE: The Jihadi Connection

In an article for the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in March 2008, Shanaka Jayasekara analyzed the LTTE links with Islamic militant groups in South Asia and beyond. Jayasekara stated that as the LTTE benefited from its worldwide “influence within the informal arms market [it has such] attracted collaborative arrangements with other terrorist groups.” The Taliban and some Al Qaeda affiliates would have enjoyed limited but real contacts with Velupillai Prabhakaran’s organization. Although there hasn’t been any new development regarding the LTTE’s arms supply network, it is fortunate that Dawn chose to publish an article about these connections in September, as terrorism experts call attention to the fact that the LTTE’s network still are to be dismantled.

Experts have been pointing out the fact that the LTTE pioneered the most effective armament supply system ever for a non-state actor. The Tamil organization had contacts in almost every country bordering the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the LTTE began to diversify its sources of supply — the Air Tigers component flew with Czech-manufactured ZLIN-143. It is then not surprising that Prabhakaran’s worldwide network was an object of interest for other terrorist groups, especially with regard to its nature and ideology.

Selvarasa Pathmanathan, the highest-ranking Tiger alive and head of the arms procurement wing of the LTTE — currently held by the Sri Lankan government at an undisclosed location — is said to have established contacts with the Taliban as early as May 2001. According to Jayasekara, Pathmanathan would have bought weapons from the Taliban “Sharjah network,” named after the third largest emirate of the UAE, where Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout operated three to four flights a day to Kandahar. The affiliation between a secular-nationalist group fighting for a homeland in a Singhalese-ruled country and the hard-line Islamic movement of the Taliban is nothing if not unusual, but when it comes to business, ideology does not matter. Hence the LTTE was operating a company flying a flag of convenience — Otharad Cargo — only 17kilometers from Sharjah, in the larger emirate of Dubai.

The implication of the LTTE’s entry into the “Afpak” region was debated during a recent meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and Sri Lankan President Rajapakse, with the latter one indicating that he believed Sri Lankan elements could have favoured terrorism in Pakistan, most especially the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team on 3 March 2009. The assumption could be true, for Jayasekara argues that the LTTE installed a front company in Karachi that procured weapons to other Pakistani groups, and managed to maintain a safe house in Peshawar. In 2007, the Sri Lankan navy destroyed a shipment of weapons from this company before it could reach the island. A lot of this information was made available thanks to the arrest of the LTTE’s procurement agent Prathapan Thavarajah by a joint Indonesian-US operation in early 2009, whose laptop seemed to have delivered many secrets about the organization’s implants in the region. But the fact the LTTE had settled in Pakistan’s safe haven was known prior to this date. In 2002, the Harakat al-Mujahideen received logistic assistance from the LTTE’s fleet in its effort to trade weapons with the Philippine based Abu Sayyaf Group. The jihadi connection was not an ideological one but the lucrative opportunity for both the Tamil group and the various Islamic factions to trade overcame the fact that none of the partners shared the same motive, or the same belief.

The LTTE ultimately faced jihadi presence all over Asia, up to the East African shores where the group operated transport companies. Trading with groups affiliated to Al Qaeda thus became a commercial necessity for the Tigers, though they never engaged in direct talks with Bin Laden’s network. Truth is the LTTE did not wait for the gravity centre of jihadi groups to move towards the Horn of Africa to exapnd contacts. Jayasekara affirms that the Tigers operated from ports in Eritrea, a major hub in worldwide arms smuggling. Prabhakaran would have even communicated by fax with President Afewerki on this matter. In fact, in its mid-December 2006 report, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the Eritrean government to have directly supplied the LTTE.

In August 2009, a Sri Lanka journal reported the army found 12 fighter planes in an Eritrean Airport. Though the news cannot be confirmed, it would indicate thatt the Eritrean government feels the tide is changing, and that it would be better to postpone if not forget about any further support for the weakened LTTE. The same journal reported that government officials are trying to establish an embassy in Eritrea in order to prevent any new appearance of a Tiger network in this part of Africa. Even so, the LTTE’s networks are far from dismantled, and though Pathmanathan’s capture is clearly an accomplishment for the government, Sri Lanka can hardly manage to do the job by itself. How much President Rajapakse is willing to listen to his regional partners is another story.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Malaysia: Close Watch on Polygamy Club

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: The Home Ministry is keeping a close eye on the Ikhwan Polygamy Club, which is alleged to be a front for the banned Al-Arqam movement.

The ministry’s secretary-general, Datuk Seri Mahmood Adam, said the security division was gathering information and intelligence on the club, and was waiting for the right time to act.

“We are aware of the activities of this club and of Al-Arqam, and we know what they are up to,” he said yesterday.

The polygamy club hit the headlines when the New Sunday Times reported that it had 900 members, all for polygamous marriages.

The spokesman for the club is Hatijah Aam, the second wife of Ashaari Muhammad, founder of the now-defunct Al-Arqam movement.

The National Fatwa Council had declared the Al-Arqam movement illegal in August 1994 after it was found that the group’s teaching and beliefs were against Islam.

Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz later hit out at the club, calling it Al-Arqam’s attempt to resurrect the cult and make it palatable to society.

Mahmood’s deputy in charge of security, Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ab Aziz, also said that Home Ministry officials would be meeting Jakim next week over the matter.

“When it comes to Islamic deviant sects like this, we work together with Jakim.”

He said it was likely that Al-Arqam was using the club as a “softer approach” in attracting members with its public stand on polygamy.

It was reported that the club was established because Ashaari wanted to show the world that he was living proof that polygamous marriages could be successful.

The club is a part of the Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhd group, with interests in bakeries, sundry shops and restaurants.

There were claims that Ashaari had also tried to revive Al-Arqam through Rufaqa Corporation Sdn Bhd, of which he is the executive chairman. -NST

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Obama Announces Pakistan Aid

NEW YORK, Sept. 25 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama announced U.S. Senate passage of a bill tripling non-military aid to Pakistan at a meeting in New York Thursday.

The Kerry-Lugar bill to provide $1.5 billion a year to Pakistan for the next five years passed Thursday in time for Obama to announce it at a New York summit meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan.

“How nice that the U.S. president could announce it personally,” Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan-Pakistan, told a briefing, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also stressed the significance of Obama’s gesture, saying it reflected the confidence of the international community in Pakistan’s democracy, Dawn said.

Zardari said Pakistan has made progress in the past year under democratic government.

“We have a message for the extremists: There’s no place for them in the civilized world,” he said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who addressed a joint news conference with Zardari after the meeting, was quoted as saying “leaders from more than 20 countries” expressed confidence in the new government in Pakistan. He also announced a separate aid of 50 million pounds for the areas bordering Afghanistan, Dawn said.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Taliban Blamed for Deaths of Seven Tribal Leaders

Peshawar, 24 Sept. (AKI/DAWN) — Suspected Taliban insurgents on Thursday shot dead seven pro-government tribal leaders in a northwest Pakistan town troubled by militant violence, police said. The victims were ambushed by the militants in the town of Janikhel town in the Bannu district.

They included tribal chief Malik Sultan, who was active in raising a government-sponsored militia against militants in the area, local police chief Iqbal Marwat said.

“Taliban militants attacked the tribal elders who were on their way to a nearby village to mediate a dispute between local people,” Marwat said.

“All seven, who were on foot, were killed on the spot while the militants fled,” he added.

Janikhel is close to the rugged tribal region of North Waziristan where Al-Qaeda and Taliban have been active since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Residents said Sultan had helped to raise the lashkar, or tribal army, after Taliban militants abducted scores of students and teachers in June on their way home from an army-run college for summer vacation.

The students were freed to tribal elders. The abduction was claimed by Pakistani Taliban, whose then leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack in August.

Saddled with a traditional standing army that lacks adequate equipment and counter insurgency specialists, one of Pakistan’s answers to counter militants has been to arm and support tribesmen to protect local communities.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Pakistan Discovers ‘Village’ Of White German Al-Qaeda Insurgents

Investigators have discovered a “Jihadi village” of white German al-Qaeda insurgents, including Muslim converts, in Pakistan’s tribal areas close to the Afghan border.

The village, in Taliban-controlled Waziristan, is run by the notorious al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which plots raids on Nato forces in Afghanistan.

A recruitment video presents life in the village as a desirable lifestyle choice with schools, hospitals, pharmacies and day care centres, all at a safe distance from the front.

In the video, the presenter, “Abu Adam”, the public face of the group in Germany, points his finger and asks: “Doesn’t it appeal to you? We warmly invite you to join us!”

According to German foreign ministry officials a growing number of German families, many of North African descent, have taken up the offer and travelled to Waziristan where supporters say converts make up some of the insurgents’ most dedicated fighters.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has a foothold in several German cities, has capitalised on growing concern over the rising profile of German forces in Afghanistan. Their role has become increasingly controversial in Germany in recent weeks after dozens of civilians were killed in an air strike ordered by German officers.

Last night a foreign ministry spokesman told The Daily Telegraph they were now negotiating with Pakistani authorities for the release of six Germans, including “Adrian M”, a white Muslim convert, his Eritrean wife and their four year old daughter, who were arrested as they were making their way to the “German village”. They are particularly concerned about the welfare of the child.

They are being held in custody in Peshawar after their arrest in May shortly when they crossed the border from Iran. They are understood to have left Germany in March this year.

The spokesman said negotiations were “under way” with Pakistani authorities “concerning a group of German citizens” and that it had been aware that the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan had been recruiting in Germany “since the beginning of the year”.

Their recruitment drive has been led by “Abu Adam”, a 24-year-old German believed to be of Turkish or North African descent who was raised with his, and fellow Jihadi, Abu Ibrahim, in the smart Bonn suburb of Kessenich.

Adam, whose real name is Mounir Chouka, received weapons training from the German army as part of his national service, and later spent three years training at the Federal Office of Statistics where colleagues described him as a “nice boy”.

He left in 2007, telling colleagues he was joining a trading firm in Saudi Arabia, but is believed to have joined a terrorist training camp in Yemen.

In another recruitment video released earlier this year he urged supporters to: “Die the death of honour.”

Khalid Khawaja, a former Pakistan intelligence officer, who describes himself as a friend of Osama bin Laden, said he was aware of a German contingent and that there were a number of Swedish converts too who had arrived in Pakistan “for Jihad”.

“The Europeans are there [in Waziristan]. The most dedicated people there are from Europe. They will do anything for Islam. They are not there because their father’s are Muslim, but by choice,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Pakistan: Moon Madness

Once more we have seen discord over the question of when Eid should have been celebrated. Indeed the issue has flared up into a full-fledged political row, with the federal railways minister demanding the removal of the chairman of the Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee. The dispute involves the question of when the new moon was sighted. Many in the NWFP celebrated Eid a day ahead of the rest of the country. To add to the confusion a small group in Lahore also followed the Saudi calendar and marked Eid on that day. There were bitter fights, some ending in blows, as clerics who argued that the Ruet-e-Hilal decision must be followed attempted to prevent ANP workers and others from offering Eid prayers. This is all rather unseemly. It detracts from the harmony and sense of peace that should mark one of the most important occasions on the Islamic calendar. The federal government has so far refused to get involved and has not backed the remarks by the railways minister, Ghulam Haider Bilour, a senior member of the ANP, that the Ruet-e-Hilal chairman is a remnant of the Musharraf era. The chairman, Mufti Munibur Rehman, has struck back, asking what authority the secular ANP has in matters of religion.

It is quite absurd that a matter as simple as spotting the crescent can assume such ugly proportions. There are predictions that the fallout could hit PPP-ANP relations. Opponents of the alliance already seem to be rubbing their hands in glee. Beyond the political, many ordinary people too have been distressed by the chaos and the failure to celebrate a united Eid. In practical terms the divide creates issues for families who live in different towns and must decide which order to follow. The time has come to find rationality. Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries seem able to use science to predict the date of the new moon and announce Eid well in advance. Much angst is avoided as a result of this simple, and sensible, measure. The example set by the Saudis in using the modern ability to predict the cycle of the moon can be emulated and an end put to the chaos over Eid that we witness each year.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Ah yes, because the cycles of the moon are such fickle, unpredictable things after who-knows-how-many years of astronomy…]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Sri Lanka: PTGTE New LTTE Front

The US based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader has announced that the LTTE proposed Provisional Transnational Government of Tamil Eelam (PTGTE) will function as an organization of the Tamil Diaspora. In the United States, UK and Canada where there are large communities of Sri Lankan Tamils and where the LTTE is banned as a terrorist organization, the so-called PTGTE will function as a front of the old LTTE carrying on activities aimed at separatism in Sri Lanka.

The LTTE leader based in New York, USA, Vishuanadan Rudrakumaran has made this announcement in www.puthinam.com.

Under the US terrorist law, together with the LTTE, some front organizations of the outfit are mentioned as banned organizations. The PTGTE is a new front introduced after the killing of Prabhakaran, by Selvarasa Padmanathan alias KP before he was caught. He is in custody in Sri Lanka.

There was no unanimity regarding the acceptance of the leadership of KP and another leader called Nadevan (the tall one) in Norway was challenging him.

But the vast amount of LTTE wealth was in the KP’s hands. At the time the PTGTE was proposed there was no assurance that the LTTE remnant would give up violence completely and accept democracy.

Though democracy was claimed, there had never been a framework or a constitution for any LTTE democracy to function. Prabhakaran’s word was law and the so-called LTTE courts worked at Prabhakaran’s behest.

The PTGTE is a ploy by the LTTE to carry on its usual activities of extortion among the Tamil Diaspora and move forward with all its illegal businesses and use the money for the bifurcation of Sri Lanka, LTTE watchers said. The PTGTE will continue to lobby with governments for the establishment of separate state in the North and East, the website said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Swedish Woman Freed in Pakistan Terror Probe

Safia Benaouda, the 19-year-old Swedish woman arrested in Pakistan earlier in September in the company of former Guantanamo inmate Mehdi Ghezali, is reported to have been released, according to local media.

Benaouda, who is the daughter of Helena Benaouda, the head of the Muslim Council of Sweden, was released with her two and half year old son on Friday morning from the Islamabad prison in which they have been held for the past four weeks, according to local media sources.

“They have confirmed that a woman and a small child have been handed over to the Swedish embassy today and there are no suspicions held against them,” the Pakistani journalist Naveed Siddiqui, working for GEO News, said after talking to the Pakistani interior ministry.

The Swedish foreign ministry was unable to confirm the release on Friday morning.

“We have not received any information about this from the Swedish embassy,” Karin Nylund at the ministry told news agency TT.

Neither sources elsewhere within the ministry nor even the Benaouda’s mother were able to confirm the reports, which by 1pm on Friday had received wide coverage in the Swedish media.

“I have received so many contradictory reports and am now waiting for confirmation from the foreign ministry,” Helena Benaouda told TT.

Naveed Siddiqui however was able to add that the authorities have confirmed that a further eleven prisoners are set to be released, implying that Swedish national Mehdi Ghezali and Benaouda’s 28-year-old partner Munir Awad, could be among them.

He also claimed that the Pakistani authorities had detained a further Swede in connection to the terror probe, a 28-year-old man, but this has neither been confirmed by Swedish authorities.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

Far East

9 N.Korean Refugees Flee Into Danish Embassy in Hanoi

Nine North Korean refugees sought shelter at the Danish Embassy in Vietnam on Thursday morning. They had arrived in Vietnam on early morning of Sept. 14 via China. They are reportedly asking the embassy to send them to Seoul.

Originally, 14 fled from North Korea and arrived at the China-Vietnam border together, but Chinese police arrested five of them near the border on Sept. 18.

A local source said the five are in danger of being sent back to the North. Among them are a six-year-old boy and his mother.

The Danish Embassy is reportedly reluctant to shelter the nine North Koreans or send them to South Korea due to diplomatic considerations. The refugees include a married couple, a mother and her daughter, two women in their 40s and 20s, a teenage girl, and a 20-something man.

The refugees reportedly knocked at the doors of the Australian, Swedish and Philippine embassies in Hanoi. When there was no answer, they went into the Danish Embassy, where security was relatively loose.

The source said Vietnamese police officers guarding the embassy did not deter them as they took them for tourists.

“With an increasing number of North Korean defectors arriving in South Korea via China and Southeast Asian nations recently, the countries that maintain ties with the North as well as China are stepping up crackdowns,” a knowledgeable source said. “It seems that the North Korean defectors entered the embassy because they had failed to find another appropriate escape route.”

A South Korean government official said, “We’re trying to find out what happened. We’ll try to guarantee their safety.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


China Selling Petrol to Iran, Report Says

SINGAPORE — China is potentially undermining US-led efforts aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions by supplying the Middle Eastern state with petrol, a report said Wednesday.

Citing unnamed traders and bankers, the Financial Times said state-owned Chinese oil companies were selling the petrol through intermediaries and now accounted for a third of Tehran’s gasoline imports.

It added that the sales are legal because the current sanctions do not cover fuel imports.

Analysts said although Iran is a major crude producer and exporter, it imports refined products such as gasoline because it lacks the refining capacity.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 barrels of gasoline per day of Chinese petrol makes its way from Asian spot markets to Iran through third parties, the report said, quoting Lawrence Eagles, head of commodities research at JP Morgan.

This accounts about 33 percent of Iran’s import of 120,000 barrels per day, the report said.

The exports will deal a blow to Washington’s moves to impose sanctions on Iran for continuing with a nuclear programme that Tehran says is for peaceful purposes, while the US and it allies fear it is trying to build an atomic bomb.

The White House wants to cut out Iran’s petrol imports, which it sees as the nation’s economic Achilles heel.

The news also comes as the United Nations meets for its General Assembly where it will discuss Iran’s nuclear programme.

Analysts contacted by AFP said China is a “logical” source for petrol imports for Iran because of their close ties and that the figures appear to be within range.

“I’m sure it’s true,” said Victor Shum, senior principal at Purvin and Gertz energy consultancy in Singapore.

“It is logical in the sense that Iran has a need and China has surplus supply and Chinese gasoline exports are actually quite high.”

Shum said China this year added new refining capacity and in August exported 140,000 barrels of gasoline per day, the highest level this year, although the data did not give a breakdown of the destination countries.

He said one third of Iran’s imports is “well within the capacity of China to supply” given the high volume of its gasoline shipments.

Clarence Chu, a trader with Hudson Capital Energy in Singapore, said he was not surprised with the Financial Times report, which said that the exports began this month.

“China has very good relations with Iran,” he said, noting that China is helping Iran develop its oilfields.

In January, Iran and China signed a 1.76 billion dollar contract for the initial development of the North Azadegan oil field in western Iran.

The agreement between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) foresees production from the field reaching 75,000 barrels a day in four years’ time.

In March, Iran’s state-owned gas company, Iran LNG, and a Chinese consortium signed a 3.39 billion dollar deal to produce liquefied natural gas in the Islamic republic’s South Pars field.

“Iran does not have a lot of refineries. They produce crude but they have to import gasoline. Their refinery is not good,” Chu said.

Shum said China most likely sells the petrol to Iran through trading subsidiaries of state-owned Chinese firms.

“Some international trading houses also supply the product to Iran, so it’s not like just one source,” he said.

CNPC had no comment to make on the report.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


N. Korea’s Concentration Camps Are a Burning Issue

Twenty years since the cold war ended with the demise of the Soviet Union and changes in China, the international community has begun to understand North Korea but is still far from seeing it whole. The Lee Myung-bak administration intends to offer the North sizable aid once the North is denuclearized. The international community, led by the United States, also equates the North Korea problem with the nuclear issue.

But the nuclear issue is merely one of many problems with the North, and the fundamental problems will remain unsolved even if it dismantles its nuclear program and weapons under international pressure. Almost all socialist countries have collapsed or been transformed except Cuba and North Korea. And it is not because of its nuclear weapons and missiles that the North survives without reform and opening stuck between South Korea, China and Japan.

The strongest prop of the North Korean regime is concentration camps. These are less like Stalin’s Siberian gulags or Mao Zedong’s Laogai concentration camps than Hitler’s Auschwitz. After World War II, humanity promised never again to permit such camps on earth, and the world community intervenes in crimes against humanity across borders. The collective insanity of the Hitler regime was intricately linked with the concentration camps, which crushed all dissent.

By running the concentration camps, the North Korean regime has been able to maintain power even after starving 3 million people to death in peacetime. These camps house some 200,000 to 300,000 political prisoners and their families, who are systematically slaughtered. Even party officials are afraid of being sent there. Hwang Jang-yop, a former secretary of the Workers’ Party who defected to the South, said, “Even senior party members can’t talk freely at homes for fear of being wiretapped, so they always have important conversations outside.”

The silence of the international community on the barbaric massacres in the concentration camps committed by Kim Jong-il borders on the criminal. Some 17,000 North Korean defectors in the South are complaining about the atrocity, but no country pays any attention. Even the South Korean government and people do not realize how serious the problem is.

As a surgeon may kill a patient with a wrong diagnosis, so more and more North Korean citizens may lose their lives if the international community makes a wrong diagnosis of the North Korea issue.

Had the U.S. diverted a tenth of the effort it invested in freeing the two journalists imprisoned in the North on the concentration camp problem, the groundwork for resolving the North Korea issue would already have be done. Had the Seoul government demanded the elimination of the concentration camps in return for the massive economic aid it provided to the North a decade ago, the North would have long started on the path to reform and opening.

The closure of the concentration camps would end the reign of terror, and the public would be able to criticize the regime. This would lead to weakening the totalitarian system and forming a new leadership, resulting in reform and opening.

Once the North achieves a collective leadership similar to China’s under Deng Xiaoping, its people would be able to think rationally and build a society where the priority shifts from leader Kim Jong-il’s personal interests to the public interest. Once the dictatorship ends, the North would, like Ukraine, denuclearize even without international pressure.

We need a paradigm shift for the resolution of the North Korean issue. Six-country human rights talks must be held, and the Lee administration must shift its priority and tell the North that it will help only if it shuts down all the concentration camps before denuclearizing.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


S. Korea: On Deterring a Nuclear Attack

[Comment from Tuan Jim: If Obama and Clinton think that S. Korea, Japan and our other Asian “allies” are going to sit on their a** while the State Dept and KJI keep “dialog” going, they’re going to get a rude awakening.]

The weaknesses in the American umbrella are too risky and perilous and the North Koreans are too belligerent.

In a recent confirmation hearing, Defense Minister nominee Kim Tae-young told lawmakers that if North Korea indicates the possibility of using nuclear weapons against the South, the South could decide to make a pre-emptive attack to destroy the North’s nuclear arms after a discussion with the United States. He has suggested that the U.S. guarantee of a protective nuclear umbrella over South Korea includes military attacks on North Korean nuclear facilities. But can we be assured that the American umbrella will work that easily and extensively?

As deterrence against nuclear weapons remains a theory, how it would work in practice is unknown. The idea is that any use of nuclear weapons would lead to a nuclear response and, therefore, annihilation. The theory has helped maintain equilibrium and peace on the global stage. The strategy dubbed “mutually assured destruction,” or MAD, has been in effect since the Cold War to keep full-scale confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union in check.

In theory, the strategy appears effective, but is nevertheless not without drawbacks.

If one country attacks another with nuclear weapons without warning and immediately declares an armistice, how should the assaulted party react?

The state leader would be at a crossroads. He could retaliate, which would translate into the total destruction of all. Or he could opt for reconciliation to protect the lives of the surviving countrymen as well as the rest of the world.

A rational leader would choose the latter because he cannot jeopardize the entire global community over damage already done. That would be as senseless as going on pouring good money after bad into a poor investment.

Some American strategists worried that such a quandary could invite a nuclear provocation. So they came up with the idea of an automated retaliatory system, leaving the decision of nuclear weaponry use to computers and not humans. The so-called doomsday machine, which has never actually been created, highlighted the perils of the MAD doctrine.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan launched the strategic defensive missile system to replace the suicidal MAD policy. At that time, such deterrent missile technology sounded fictional and Reagan’s vision was derided as far-fetched as the sci-fi film “Star Wars.”

But as technology advanced, the strategy became a reality and a part of the nuclear deterrence system.

If North Korea strikes us with nuclear arms, would the umbrella over our heads really work as planned?

It is a question none can answer as the umbrella has never been tested.

But whether the American president would actually order the firing of ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads against North Korea remains unknown. The U.S. chief executive may hesitate to chance nuclear apocalypse over a relatively small North Korean nuclear provocation if it doesn’t pose immediate danger to Americans. Washington may close the affair with sanctions or similar action if the North gives an explanation and apologizes for its attack.

There is no guarantee that North Koreans won’t exploit this weakness in the American nuclear umbrella. They have gotten away with atrocious terrorist attacks before. Even if they don’t actually launch a strike, they could use the threat to achieve other ends.

Whatever the case, we cannot tolerate North Korea as a nuclear power.

Unfortunately, many are beginning to accept North Korea’s position as a nuclear power.

When one possesses something for a long time, its ownership becomes acceptable and seemingly justified.

The United States and a few others were grandfathered into rights to nuclear arms because they already possessed them before the non-proliferation pact. So the duration of possession does make a difference.

Hence, there are some suggestions coming from China to permit North Korea to hold onto existing nuclear arms if it promises to stop making more. Washington may buy that as it is becoming worn out by a long tug of war with the North.

If North Korea becomes a nuclear weapons state, we too have to develop a doomsday machine, or nuclear weapons.

We must speak up. The weakness in the American umbrella is too risky and perilous and the North Koreans are too belligerent.

We must pronounce that if North Korea is recognized as a nuclear power, we cannot do anything but develop weapons ourselves.

That is the only deterrence against North Korea becoming a nuclear arms state.


           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Why Are Seoul and Washington Out of Sync?

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Is there anyone actually working at the state dept?]

The unthinkable happened between South Korean and U.S. diplomats after President Lee Myung-bak proposed offering North Korea a “grand bargain” of security guarantees and economic aid in exchange for scrapping its nuclear weapons program. Lee made the suggestion during a speech on Monday at the Korea Society in New York.

When asked by reporters about Lee’s proposal, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Kurt Campbell said, “Actually, I — to be perfectly honest, I was not aware of that.” Campbell added, “Nothing of the sort came up in our session with the South Korean counterparts” before Lee’s speech. U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said, “I think it’s really not for me to comment on the particulars, because it’s — this is his policy. These were his remarks.” The New York Times reported that the U.S. government feels Lee’s proposal had “surprised” American officials and that Washington felt it was “far-fetched.”

But it was the U.S. government itself that first proposed a “comprehensive package” of political and military guarantees and economic assistance. Feeling that it is impossible to resolve the nuclear impasse by offering piecemeal rewards to the North at each stage of denuclearization, the U.S. had brought up a comprehensive approach envisioning various forms of support to North Korea if it scraps its nuclear weapons program. The “grand bargain” proposed by Lee is essentially the same.

That was precisely the plan Campbell, who said he never heard of it, had brought with him during his visit to South Korea in July. “There was a consensus on the fact that the North Korean nuclear negotiations should be approached comprehensively, rather than in different stages,” a South Korean official said. “But it is possible that U.S. officials had heard the term ‘grand bargain’ for the first time.”

If that is the case, it means that the U.S. government ended up publicly refuting a speech by the South Korean president simply because of a difference in wording. This is rare in diplomacy. Some are saying that the U.S. government may have been displeased because it got the impression that sanctions against the communist country may have been overshadowed by Lee’s proposal, especially at a time when Washington is pursuing a dual-track approach, simultaneously involving dialogue and sanctions. But the U.S. knows that the consistent stance of the South Korean government is to continue sanctions against the communist country.

“In fact, the point that we tried to make was how careful that we need to be at this juncture to be consolidated in our approach,” Campbell said. Yet when it comes to Lee’s proposal, the exact opposite has happened between South Korea and the U.S. The future of talks with North Korea remains doubtful now that this has happened, especially at a time when fresh nuclear dismantlement talks have yet to begin.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia How-to Jihadist Jailed

A man who produced a do-it-yourself jihad book has been sentenced to 12 years in prison in Australia.

Bela Khazaal was found guilty last September of producing a 110-page book, in Arabic, entitled Provisions Of The Rules of Jihad.

This advised about terrorist acts such as exploding bombs, shooting down planes and assassinating people such as former US President George W Bush.

Khazaal had claimed his book was never intended to incite terrorist acts.

At his sentencing in Sydney, Justice Megan Latham said she found it “unsurprising” a jury had rejected his defence.

“It beggars belief that a person of average intelligence who has devoted themselves to the study of Islam over some years would fail to recognise the nature of the material,” she said.

“The dissemination of extremist activity, connected or unconnected with a terrorist plot, is caught by the government’s (anti-terror) scheme … (because such material) is capable and is shown to foment terrorist activity.”

Khazaal, a former Lebanon-born Qantas Airways baggage-handler, compiled the book from a range of Internet sources, his lawyer George Thomas told the court at an earlier sentencing hearing.

Its full title is Provisions Of The Rules of Jihad — Short Judicial Rulings And Organisational Instructions For Fighters And Mujahideen Against Infidels.

He is the first person to be convicted on the charge of making a document connected with assistance in a terrorist act, which carries a maximum jail term of 15 years.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that US international terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann, who was called as a witness at Khazaal’s trial, described the book as a “do-it-yourself jihad” manual, aimed at people who “don’t have Osama bin Laden’s telephone number”.

The Supreme Court heard that, in December 2003, a military court in Lebanon sentenced Khazaal to 10 years’ hard labour for terrorism-related offences, including forming a terrorist association for the purpose of committing crimes against people and property.

           — Hat tip: Sean O’Brian[Return to headlines]

Immigration

Cyprus: People Traffickers Arrested in Sting

SIX PEOPLE have been arrested for smuggling illegally immigrants into Cyprus through the occupied areas, in what police believe to be a major bust in a human trafficking ring.

The people traffickers are mainly from Palestine and Iraq and all have refugee or asylum seeker status. One of the six is from Pakistan and married to a Cypriot.

The Police Headquarters are also looking for other suspects in connection with the trafficking ring. The network allegedly has partners in Syria, Turkey and the occupied areas.

The men were arrested for several offences, including conspiracy to commit a crime, smuggling migrants, assisting illegal entry into the territory of the Republic, blackmail, extortion, intimidation and threat of force.

The arrests were made following information from a retired Iraqi general from Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The man, who is now believed to be in protective custody, fled Iraq under threat of execution after the US invasion and the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime. It is alleged that two of his sons were murdered and his daughter was killed by a car bomb.

He escaped to Syria with his wife and three remaining children. He reportedly struggled in mainly Sunni Muslim Syria because of religious differences and was eventually approached by a Palestinian who offered to get him to Cyprus.

He arrived in Cyprus last December through Turkey and the occupied areas. However he stepped on a mine in the buffer zone and suffered serious injuries. According to the man, the smuggler accompanying him refused to help him but instead took his wallet and documents.

It was also alleged that, while in hospital, he was visited by the members of the trafficking ring who repeatedly threatened to kill him and his family if he spoke to the police. However, to protect himself and his family from further threat he contacted the police and assisted in securing Wednesday’s arrests.

The Police Headquarters and Immigration Officials confirmed only that six asylum applicants had been arrested for assisting illegal immigration and for various offences including threats and intimidation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Immigration: Frontex Report Implicates Turks

Photographs taken from a Latvian helicopter participating in Frontex patrols over the Aegean and published yesterday in Kathimerini, show Turkish coast guard officials failing to obstruct a smuggling vessel from leaving the Turkish coast, an apparent vindication of Greek claims that Turkish authorities are not cooperating in the fight to curb illegal immigration.

The photos, submitted to the European Commission along with a written report by the helicopter pilots, also appear to show a Turkish coast guard vessel escorting a smuggling boat into Greek national waters off the tiny islet of Farmakonisi.

An extract from the report by the Latvian Frontex pilots reads as follows: “We have to mention… at 8.01 [a.m.] a suspicious target detected in Greek territorial waters moving to the east… At 8.02, the suspicious target has been recognized as a Turkish Coast Guard vessel.”

The photographs were submitted to the EC by the Latvian pilots on September 14, when their Frontex aircraft was harassed by Turkish radar several times. The pilots said they received a series of emergency signals via Turkish radar, warning that their aircraft had entered Turkish air space. The signals had been sent while the aircraft was flying over the Aegean islet of Farmakonisi, according to the Frontex pilots, who said they ignored these signals and continued their patrol duties.

Last week, the EC issued a statement — which was rather too balanced for the liking of Greek diplomats — noting that the Frontex helicopter had “never violated Turkish air space” but also added that the aircraft “had never received threats from Turkish authorities.”

In a related development, the French government is said to have submitted a proposal to the EU’s Council of Justice and Internal Affairs Ministers, calling for Turkey and Libya to cooperate with EU member states in the drive to curb illegal immigration. The proposal reportedly calls on the EU to provide the two countries with a “decisive reminder” of their obligations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Iraqi Refugees Face a Hard Life in Asylum Countries

A report by the Minority Rights Group International shows that asylum countries are sending refugees back. The absence of a proper integration policy is leading to refugee dispersion, condemning refugees to cultural extinction.

London (AsiaNews/MRG) — Refugees from Iraq’s minorities face insecurity and risk losing their religious and cultural identity as they seek refuge in neighbouring countries and Western Europe, a minority rights group said on Thursday.

In report based on interviews conducted with refugees in 2008, the Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) notes that members of Iraqi minority groups that fled because of persecution find themselves in no-man’s land in Europe, often met by restrictive asylum policies, discrimination and in some cases forcible return.

According to the United Nations refugee agency, around 1.9 million people fled Iraq as a result of sectarian killings following the 2003 US-led invasion.

A disproportionate number of those fleeing Iraq—somewhere between 15-64 per cent, depending on the country of refuge—are minorities, including Christians, Circassians, Sabian Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen and Yazidis.

The countries with the largest number of Iraqi refugees are Syria (1.1 million), Jordan (450,000), Lebanon (50,000), Sweden (32,120), Egypt (30,000) and the United States (4,700).

According to Carl Soderbergh, the MRGI’s director of policy, European nations like Sweden and Great Britain are turning down many asylum applications and have begun forcibly returning a number of rejected asylum seekers to Iraq, and this despite rising attacks in some areas against minorities.

Although Jordan and Syria have welcomed a large number of Iraqi refugees, many live in a state of limbo, as they are unable to secure residency or work permits. Both countries have since 2007 begun to tighten their visa policies, making it increasingly harder for Iraqis to live there legally.

The MRG report shows how difficult life is for Iraqi refugees when asylum countries do not have a real policy geared towards integration.

The problem is especially bad for certain minorities like the Mandaeans and the Shabak that are very small. Dispersing them within and between countries could lead to their cultural extinction.

The report also provides a number of moving personal stories.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Italy: Illegal Nigerians Deported From Rome

Rome, 25 Sept. (AKI) — Italy is certain to provoke fresh international debate after deporting 50 Nigerian illegal immigrants on a charter flight from Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Friday. Thirty-six of the illegal migrants were expelled by Italian authorities while 14 others had been served with expulsion orders from other countries, the Italian interior ministry said in a statement.

The Rome flight was bound for the Nigerian capital, Lagos.

Italy’s conservative government has drawn widespread international criticism from the United Nations, Catholic church and humanitarian groups for its hardline policies on illegal immigration.

Under a law enacted in July, people entering Italy without permission face fines of up to 10,000 euros and immediate expulsion.

The law also provides for citizen anti-crime patrols in towns and cities and triples the amount of time illegal immigrants can be detained in holding centres from two to six months.

Italian coastal patrol vessels have turned back thousands of would-be illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean without first screening them for asylum since May.

The Italian government has defended the policy of returning migrants, agreed under a controversial ‘friendship’ pact with Libya signed last year.

But the illegal immigration crackdown has already opened up a rift within the government and the tough measures have drawn sharp criticism from the UN and top rights groups, as well as Italy’s centre-left opposition and the Catholic Church.

The European Commission in August sought an investigation into the repatriation issue after 73 African migrants died aboard a dinghy which drifted in the Mediterranean for three weeks.

Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi won elections in April 2008 on an anti-crime platform, vowing to curb illegal immigration which, according to surveys, many Italian associate with a growing security problem in their towns and cities.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Minister of Migration Says Finland Could Face Pressures to Accept More Refugees

Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swedish People’s Party) has doubts that the European Union could create a common EU asylum system by 2012.

This could lead to increasing pressures to accept more refugees to Finland.

“Those countries behaving decently will be facing more pressure if there is no joint scheme”, Thors said on Monday in Brussels.

The European Commission is currently urging that the member-states should take more refugees from third countries.

This so-called resettlement programme aims at a common European asylum system. At present, participation in the programme is voluntary.

Finland does not intend to accept more refugees. Finland is already today one of those few countries who accept quota refugees.

In 2009, Finland’s quota is 750. Sweden, the current holder of the European Union’s rotating presidency, has the largest number of quota refugees, namely 2,000.

The number of asylum-seeker minors arriving in Sweden is also considerably larger than that coming to Finland.

In 2009, the number of minors applying for asylum in Sweden was 1,300 by the end of August, while the corresponding figure for Finland was 400.

Thors feels that it is wrong that Finland is often spoken about as the favourite destination of minor asylum-seekers.

“At present refugees are arriving in Finland at a slower pace than before”, said Thors on Monday, speaking at a meeting of immigration ministers in Brussels.

Those minors who come to Nordic countries from third countries typically seek for asylum, while those who go to Southern European countries often end up in black labour markets straight away.

It is difficult and expensive to establish the ages of minors and to track down their families. Moreover, if the parents can be found, often they are also accepted to Finland.

The rules are much stricter in many other EU countries. Minor asylum-seekers have been transferred to orphanages that have been founded in the countries of departure, from where the parents of these minors have taken them back home.

Tobias Billström, the Swedish Migration and Asylum Policy Minister, says that the European Union should have a joint programme which could be used to solve the problem of underage asylum-seekers.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Netherlands: Multicultural Forum to Cost Immigration

The institute for multicultural development, Forum, confirmed on Friday it is to carry out a cost benefit analysis of immigration in the Netherlands, news agency ANP reports.

The institute believes a thorough analysis is necessary to facilitate a proper discussion about immigration in general, ANP said. VU university professor Peter Nijkamp will be involved in the research.

At the beginning of the summer, the anti-immigration PVV caused an outcry when it asked ministers to calculate the cost of non-western immigration.

Integration minister Eberhard van der Laan said earlier this month detailed figures would not be made available as a matter of principle.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


‘We Are All Immigrants’: Swedish Researchers

Swedish researchers have concluded from DNA samples that Scandinavians are descended from immigrants that landed in the region 4,000 to 6,000 years ago.

The researchers have studied DNA samples from stone age graves. The samples come from 19 people who were hunters and gatherers and lived in Scandinavia until about 4,000 years ago.

The DNA has then been compared with common DNA sets collected from contemporary residents of the region.

“They differ very substantially. The gene pool that we have today could not have evolved by chance alone from that which existed then. Something else must have been added. Either a complete population replacement or gene flow,” said Anders Götherström, who led the study at Uppsala University.

Götherström explains that the gene pool must have been mixed.

“We have not quantified the results so we do not know that much, but my initial conclusion is that it is a mix. But there has to have been an immigration. The gene pool among the hunters and gatherers is not sufficient,” he said.

Götherström led the study which has involved researchers from Denmark and the UK.

According to the researchers the hunters and gatherers lived side by side with groups that began to till the soil. These farmers started to turn up in Scandinavia during the so-called new (Neolithic) stone age, from around 4,000-1,800 BC.

The study, which has been presented in the scientific journal Current Biology, also included analysis of DNA samples taken from three farmers buried at around the same time.

Among the hunters and gatherers there was no trace of the DNA sets common in the region today.

“But we found them in the farmer group,” Götherström revealed.

Götherström said that the researchers have concluded that there is only one direction from where the presumed wave of immigrants could have come.

“That is from the south. But from where and how far they have travelled, is difficult to say.”

The study will now continue and will include the collection and analysis of more samples collected from individuals belonging to the farmer group.

The purpose is to discern from where the immigrants may have come, Götherström said.

“Now want to know more exactly where they may have come from.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

10 Years Later: Media Bury Jesse Dirkhising

Press focuses on Shepard death, ignores homosexuals’ brutal murder of boy

As the 10th anniversary of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising’s tragic murder and rape by two homosexuals approaches, the young boy remains victim of a second burial — by the American media.

The press is still buzzing about the murder of Matthew Shepard — an adult homosexual brutally murdered in Wyoming by heterosexuals — and his mother’s newly released memoir, “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed” describing the gory details of her son’s murder in a descriptive narrative. Shepherd’s parents have been lobbying for a hate-crimes bill since the murder.

USA Today reported “The Laramie Project — 10 Years Later” will debut in more than 100 theaters in all 50 states and seven countries Oct. 12, the 11th anniversary of Shepard’s death, in an effort to raise awareness about “hate crimes.” NBC aired a drama, “The Matthew Shepard Story,” in June 2006.

But, even on the anniversary of his death, another boy’s horrific murder continues to be largely ignored — with no plays, books or TV dramas to honor his memory. No local memorials have been held since Dirkhising’s brutal death at the hands of two homosexual predators who confessed to using the boy as a sex toy while torturing him to death.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Remembering Jesse Dirkhising

[Comments: WARNING. Article contains graphic details of this horrific crime.]

In the news business, you’ve got to have a strong stomach.

It’s like being a cop.

You get to see the darkest side of a dark world. And what you see, hear and read is often unforgettable — and not in a good way.

The case of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising continues to haunt me since I first wrote about it 10 years ago — before anyone else in the national press.

The details of the crime in Prairie Grove, Ark., Sept. 26, 1999, were chilling enough before I read more than I cared to read in the affidavit filed the next day. This is not an easy story to write nor read about. Be warned.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Sunstein: Fetuses ‘Use’ Women, Abortion Limits ‘Troublesome’

Obama regulatory chief offers radical new interpretation of Constitution

Restrictions on access to abortion would turn women’s bodies into vessels to be “used” by fetuses, according to President Obama’s newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.

“A restriction on access to abortion turns women’s reproductive capacities into something to be used by fetuses. … Legal and social control of women’s sexual and reproductive capacities has been a principal historical source of sexual inequality,” Sunstein wrote in his 1993 book “The Partial Constitution.”

In the book, obtained and reviewed by WND, Sunstein sets forth a radical new interpretation of the Constitution. In one chapter, titled “Pornography, abortion, surrogacy,” Sunstein argued against restrictions on abortion and pornography.

[…]

In addition to Sunstein’s moral disregard for human embryos, WND reported the Obama czar several times has quoted approvingly from an author who likened animals to slaves and argued an adult dog or a horse is more rational than a human infant and should, therefore, be granted similar rights.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

General

Amil Imani: Islam is Misunderstood

Everybody just relax. Islam is badly misunderstood. The negative stereotype of Islam is the usual evil-doings of Zionists in America and their foolish fellow travelers, fundamentalist Christians. Please don’t listen to what these hatemongers say about Islam and hear us out. So implies the nationally-launched campaign of Muslim organizations in the United States…

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]


Benign Shariah Finance

By Lorne Cutler, National Post

Islamic or shariah-compliant financing is becoming increasing popular, both in Muslim countries and Western countries with large Muslim populations. It was therefore quite a surprise to read Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s assertion (Shariah finance: A zero-sum game, Aug. 28) that the primary reason for Islamic financing is to funnel funds into political and military Jihad to destroy the West. This is based on Dr. Gorka’s view that Islam doesn’t actually prohibit interest, only usury, and as such Islamic banks have really been established to fund jihad with the prohibition of interest really being a ruse.

This is equivalent to saying that the real reason for conventional interest-based banking is to launder money for organized crime. Leading Western banks such Citibank, HSBC, Deutschebank and ABN-Amro have opened up Islamic subsidiaries. It is hard to believe that they would knowingly funnel money to terrorist groups.

At one time, Christianity and Judaism also considered interest as usury and prohibited it. This was at a time when lending was considered taking advantage of the poor. The poor would borrow money to pay off debts of servitude. Any interest added to the burden of the poor was considered usurious. Gradually, however, capital was required in the creation of real wealth. Charging interest was no longer taking advantage of the poor but a critical tool in creating wealth and raising standards of living. While Christianity and Judaism changed their views regarding interest, Muslim scholars did not.

Given the aversion in Canada to shariah family law, it is critical we understand the principles of shariah financing and why conventional banking is problematic for religious Muslims.

Islamic financing is based on three principles. First, interest is prohibited. Islam believes that you can’t make a profit on something that is not physical, and since money is only a concept, charging interest is not allowed whether at usurious rates or not. A bank can earn money, however, by becoming part of the underlying commercial transaction.

Islamic banks provide funds in one of three ways. If Party A wishes to buy goods from Party B,

but needs financing, the bank would buy the goods from Party B and either resell the goods to Party A or lease the goods to Party A. The bank charges a markup to cover its profit and risk. The third structure involves the bank going into partnership with Party A. The bank provides the funding and Party A provides its expertise. Similar to conventional equity financing, the bank is repaid from the profits generated by the venture.

The second key principle of Islamic banking deals with the types of goods that can’t be financed. Alcohol, pornography, gambling and agriculture/ food processing industries based on pork are prohibited.

Thirdly, an Islamic bank is not allowed to engage in speculative practices such as derivatives.

While Muslims are required to donate a certain amount to charity or zakat, this is no different than Jewish tzedakah (charity) to the poor or Christian tithing. Muslim companies and banks should also give to charity. We call this corporate social responsibility.

Each Islamic bank has a panel of three Islamic scholars who opine on whether something is shariah-compliant. These panels can only determine what constitutes shariah-compliant financing, not whether the structure complies with the laws of the country, and they have no authority to act against the country’s law.

There are international agreements prohibiting banks from money laundering and funding terrorist groups. If required, existing international agreements can be modified to ensure Islamic banks are governed by these agreements if they aren’t already. If certain banks don’t abide by these rules, Western banks will be prohibited from working with them. Canada’s criminal code also makes it an offense to support terrorist groups. If a religious scholar advising a particular Islamic bank also preaches jihad, regulations could be established to prevent our banks from dealing with that bank. Islamic banks would be subject to the same regulations and supervision as are conventional banks.

Interest is a merely a tool, not a fundamental Canadian or Western value. If certain groups have problems charging interest, there is nothing inherently wrong in setting up financial institutions that can provide funding in a way that does not abrogate religious principles. Our existing and future banking laws and regulations can protect us against the risk of a bank engaging in illegal activities.

Cutler is an Ottawa-based independent financial consultant.

           — Hat tip: ESW[Return to headlines]


Europe and the USA Face Spread of ‘Severe’ Disease, Doctor Warns

The United States and Europe face a new health threat from a mosquito-borne disease far more unpleasant than the West Nile virus that swept into North America a decade ago, a U.S. expert said on Friday. Chikungunya virus has spread beyond Africa since 2005, causing outbreaks and”Unlike West Nile virus, where nine out of 10 people are going to be totally asymptomatic, or may have a mild headache or a stiff neck, if you get Chikungunya you’re going to be sick,” he said. “The disease can be fatal. It’s a serious disease,” Diaz added. “There is no vaccine.” Chikungunya infection causes fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain. Symptoms can last a few weeks, though some suffers have reported incapacitating joint pain or arthritis lasting months. The disease was first discovered in Tanzania in 1952. Its name means “that which bends up” in the Makonde language spoken in northern Mozambique and southeastern Tanzania. scores of fatalities in India and the French island of Reunion. It also has been detected in Italy, where it has begun to spread locally, as well as France.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Michael Jackson: ‘Hitler Was a Genius’

Michael Jackson admired Adolf Hitler’s showmanship and described him as a “genius”, taped interviews with the deceased star disclose.

The singer, who died of heart failure in June aged 50, was also convinced that he could have cured the Nazi leader’s evil, had he been alive to speak to him.

He said that the dictator — responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews — needed “help” and “therapy”.

Jackson made the claims during interviews with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, with whom he became close friends. The conversations were recorded with Jackson’s approval and have been published in a new book — The Michael Jackson Tapes — which goes on sale in the US and online on Friday.

During one interview, Jackson said: “Hitler was a genius orator. To make that many people turn and change and hate, he had to be a showman and he was.”

Boteach then asked the star: “You believe that if you had an hour with Hitler you could somehow touch something inside of him?”

Jackson replied: “Absolutely. I know I could.”

He went on to argue that nobody is totally evil, adding: “You have to help them, give them therapy, teach them that somewhere, something in their life went wrong.”

Boteach, 42, who recorded more than 30 hours of interviews with Jackson, told The Sun: “Michael despised what Hitler had done. When it came to believing he could heal Hitler, that was hopeless naïvety.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


The Dog Ate Global Warming

Interpreting climate data can be hard enough. What if some key data have been fiddled?

Imagine if there were no reliable records of global surface temperature. Raucous policy debates such as cap-and-trade would have no scientific basis, Al Gore would at this point be little more than a historical footnote, and President Obama would not be spending this U.N. session talking up a (likely unattainable) international climate deal in Copenhagen in December.

Steel yourself for the new reality, because the data needed to verify the gloom-and-doom warming forecasts have disappeared.

Or so it seems. Apparently, they were either lost or purged from some discarded computer. Only a very few people know what really happened, and they aren’t talking much. And what little they are saying makes no sense.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

2 comments:

randian said...

Since money is fungible, it makes me wonder whether Obama is knowingly funding jihad, including nuclear weapons research by Islamic countries. Nobody ever said zakat had to be from your own money, after all.

bewick said...

There now. For decades I have watched UK politicians trawl the World for the best ideas - and then instal the worst. Many from the US I must add.
Labour politicians (Democrat in your language) have a somewhat unjustified awe of America.
Brown loves America and only this week we hear that Blair considered emigrating. Would that he had! Your loss and our gain!

Now I see Obama doing much the same and making the same serious mistakes - installing FAILED UK Labour Party policies.
The NHS isn't a "failed" policy but it is far from what it once was.

God Help America!